Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
Airs Weekdays 2:43 and 3:43 a.m.

Hot Spiced Tarantula




STEWART BLACK, FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

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Like your chili extra hot? Here's another thrill you might enjoy—a tarantula bite!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

A study by David Julius of the University of California, San Francisco, looked at  venom from a West Indian tarantula. It's shown to activate the same nerve cells that sense the hot, spicy substance in chili peppers.

So when you bite into that innocent-looking black pod in your kung pao chicken, it's basically like ... having a tarantula clamped on your tongue!

Here's what's going on:  Compounds in both the hot pepper and tarantula venom target a special pain-sensing receptor. It's known as the capsaicin (cap-SAY-i-sin) receptor.  When the hot compound binds to the receptor, it sets off a chain reaction that generates an electrical signal that gets zapped to your brain.  Your brain zaps back with a feeling of pain.

Studying such pain-producing compounds gives scientists insight into how new medications can be designed to treat pain from diseases.

New trend for restaurants?  Hot sauce, pico de gallo, and tarantula!  Just spit-ballin'.