This tiny fish with fangs can fix our opioid problem

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In fighting for space and defending themselves from larger predators, their secret weapons are two large, grooved teeth on the lower jaw linked to venom glands. They analyzed their fangs and, if present, their venom delivery system. Three toxins that, surprisingly, have never been found in fish before.

Getting hold of the venom wasn't easy. The team worked around this issue by taking the fish out of their tanks and dangling cotton swabs in front of them until they bit to get the venom.

Snakes, scorpions and spiders are the usual suspects for this kind of research, but with so many venomous fish out there, we could find some useful chemicals in them, too.

"The most pain I've ever been in other than the time I broke my back was from a stingray envenomation", Fry says.

Bryan Fry, from the University of Queensland, explained that fish with venomous spines on their bodies "produce immediate and blinding pain". Even more interesting is how this unusual venom-which shares building blocks with the venom of scorpions and cone snails-came to be. "They don't sting. They are pure hell". The venom of this fish lowers the blood pressures in would-be predators, researchers say.

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Gizmodo reported that fang blennies do not use their fangs to help them catch prey. Dr. Casewell stated that the predatory fish tried to eat the fang blennies. "While the feeling of pain is not produced, opioids can produce sensations of extremely unpleasant nausea and dizziness [in mammals]". However, the neuropeptide and opioid components in the blennies' venom could cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, which would not cause pain to the victim, but merely leave it disoriented and unable to chase the little fish.

Not all researchers on the team are convinced the the blenny's venom works like hard drugs. In addition, while over 2,000 fish species are venomous, less than 5 percent administer toxins with their teeth. "The fang blenny would simply swim out of the mouth and escape".

"They're a very different structural class to the painkillers people are familiar with".

For instance, they could develop a more effective painkiller by using the opioid peptides present in the venom. But it turns out those fangs can do more than chomp down on food.

Evolution favoured the tiny fish with large teeth first and later found a way to enhance them with venom, he added.

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The fang blenny's venom is an opioid like morphine or heroin, essentially a painkiller.

The venomous fang blenny is a small brightly colored fish that is found in the Pacific region, mostly among coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef along Australia's east coast.

Their behaviour is also intriguing, he said, for the way they appear unafraid of predators and fight for territory with similar-sized fish.

"All of this mimicry, all of these interactions at the community level, ultimately are stimulated by the venom system that some of these fish have".

"They're right in the epicentre of the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef", said Fry. We spoke with Bryan Fry, a biologist at the University of Queensland, about his findings and the chances this newly discovered resource will survive the effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.

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