In Pain? Ask the Fangblenny for Help

When is the last time you learned medical secrets from a little fish? Never, right?

A fish in Australia may have the secret to the next breakthrough in pain-relieving medication. Scientists are investigating the unique way that the fangblenny, or a two-inch yellow and blue fish that lives in the Great Barrier Reef, uses venom.

While prey develop different ways of defending themselves against predators, the fangblenny has a distinct, grisly tactic. When a predator swallows them, the fangblenny fish secretes venom from its two fangs. The predator then becomes disoriented and the fangblenny bites its way out of the predator’s stomach.

While analyzing the venom, biologists discovered similarities to elements found in painkillers. The predator’s body undergoes biological processes that doctors try to trigger in patients to help relieve pain. Further understanding of the venom and its effects could produce medical breakthroughs to replace the need for addictive opioid drugs.

Copying structures and processes observed in nature like this is called biomimicry. Scientists hope that by studying cases such as the fangblenny, humans can create more efficient and sustainable solutions for common problems.

Sources: NPR and Current Biology

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