Scientists Create Chilli Sauce That Mimics Venomous Spider Bite
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Even the biggest hot sauce fans will have their limits, right? Most meals taste better with a bit of heat dancing around the plate, but if the situation starts to make you weep real, uncontrollable tears, you should probably call it a day.
So it would take A LOT of balls to tackle this chilli sauce, which is the first of its kind to mimic the bite of a venomous spider. I know, you thought that the Hot Peri Peri sauce at Nando's was hard work, but this just sounds downright painful.
The chilli sauce was designed by British scientists using laboratory test data on hundreds of arachnids.
Hoping to inspire budding biologists, Kent-based drug discovery business Venomtech produced the sauce as a 'side project' to its daily experiments on the creepy crawlies' venom.
The experts reckon the burn and tingling sensation from 'Steve's Scientific Sauce' mimics the effect of being bitten by the Trinidad chevron spider.
Managing director and founder Steven Trim, 41, said: "It's as best as we can manage without actually tasting the venom.
"It's a similar heat component that the venom would cause."
The idea first came to him when he met food marketer Stefano Cuomo, of Macknade, at a meeting two years ago.
Steve continued: "We focus on studying venoms and how they work in the biology for drug discovery and through this research we became aware that the Trinidad Chevron venom actually works on the same receptors as Capsicum.
"It was about two years ago when we had that first light bulb moment."
Steve and Stefano (nice of them to synchronise their names, innit?) had to park their unique idea when Food Standards Agency said it would cost up to £20,000 ($26,456) just to test whether the venom was safe for consumption alone.
But the duo didn't see that as a dead end, and decided to raise funds by creating the best synthetic version of the venom for a revolutionary new sauce - then hopefully they'd have enough to fund the real thing.
"I did think it was crazy," Steve admitted.
"I laughed it off at the time and said it was hilarious to do. Nobody has been foolish enough to try the venom.
"But we kept bringing it up when we bumped into each other over the year. We finally hit on the idea of doing a synthetic inspired sauce."
Steve and his team of four managed to isolate the venom's peptide component - that's basically the only part relevant to taste and heat for humans for tests.
The venom's other components, meanwhile, had properties Steve's team investigated for potential new anti-malarial and pain relief drugs.
Steve said he had never even considered tasting the venom (why would you?!) during the 'many hours' his team had worked on probing its effects on cell cultures.
He added: "It's hot, so for people who are big chilli fans, they often say it could be hotter and for people who aren't, they say it's hot, so it's nicely in the middle.
"People who really like their chillies often say it's really warm."
The synthetic version the team created uses normal chillies and flavours - and Steve has even managed to sell up to 300 bottles since its launch last Halloween.
"I have one something probably about once a week," he said.
"Our aim for this was to make something over and above the science, is a really good product."
Steve said the chilli sauce goes well with curries and quesadillas, and even plans on releasing a mix with mayonnaise called 'venomaise' later this year.
When asked how he extracted the venom from his 300 spiders in his lab, he said he'd done so 'carefully'.
Steve continued: "We use a light anaesthesia so when the spider is asleep, we can use a tiny electrical stimulation, it just contract the muscles around the venom glands and that extracts the venom harmlessly.
"There's a team of four of us and we've all had input in this over the last year. It's a side project for us.
"We've a lab with about 300 spiders in it for our daily work.
"These spiders produce about a tenth of a millimetre of venom per bite and so only a small component will actually be the actually useful component, so we will need a lot more spiders than we currently have - a couple of hundred.
"It's not there as a scare factor, it's there because it's the essence of the science of what we've made here.
"We know there are people that are arachnophic - they cannot focus on anything but the image of the spider and it's clearly not for them
"We've spent many hours over the last year getting the story and the art work ready.
"Our aim for this is to raise awareness of the versatility of spiders and hopefully people will understand a bit more about the amazing biology of spider venom through the medium of chilli."
Steve worked for ten years as a drug discovery specialist at pharmaceutical company Pfizer after graduating in genetics from Aberystwyth University in Wales.
He launched his company in Sandwich, Kent, nine years ago.