Tarantulas Help Medical Science Creep Forward

They're giving researchers key insights into human muscles

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WEDNESDAY, Aug. 24, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Tarantulas make most humans tense up, but research using the spiders is shedding light on how muscles relax.

"We have solved the structure of the array of miniature motors that form our muscles and found out how they are switched off," said Raul Padron, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute international research scholar at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research in Caracas, Venezuela.

Using a new electron microscopy technique, researchers were able to study in great detail the striated muscle taken from tarantulas. Striated muscle controls skeletal movement and contractions of the heart.

Padron said he hopes to apply the research to muscle diseases that arise from malfunctioning of the muscles' on/off switches. One such disease is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which the wall of the left ventricle of the heart becomes enlarged, often leading to sudden death.

The findings appear in the Aug. 25 issue of Nature.

More information

The University of Southern California has more about muscle tissue.

SOURCES: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, news release, Aug. 24, 2005

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