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


Listen to story

Download this story 0.0MB

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'.