Snail venom- A possible answer for chronic pain?

While the venom of Cone Snails has been studied since decades as the organism’s natural defence mechanism against predators and a means of trapping potential prey, it’s role as a potential pain reliever has only recently been stumbled upon.

Researchers from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Queensland (UQ) have identified an active ingredient in this venom (conotoxins) that could be used for the synthesis of a novel drug.

Cone Snail (Photo credit: Patrick Randall, Flickr)

Translating the therapeutic effects of conotoxins into a viable medicine has been quite an uphill task. In order to expand on the already existing data, the crude structure of the venom’s constituent peptides were modified and shrunk in a way that ensured that the analgesic properties were not tampered with.

The research involved using these modified conotoxins to treat pain in the colon of laboratory models, similar to that experienced by patients of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It was observed that the changes in it’s structure did not reduce the efficiency in which it alleviated the pain in the model.

This work was a result of a collaborative effort between Professor David Craik at UQ’s Institute of Molecular Bioscience, Professor Adams at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Associate Professor Stuart Brierley at the University of Adelaide.

Originally published in the Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Dr.Richard Clark from the School of Biomedical Science believes that this research should be continued  with a renewed focus on improving conotoxin stability and the different types of pain it addresses.

“Simplifying the conotoxin will make a drug much faster and cheaper to develop.”, said Dr Clark.

The researchers are currently looking for funding to develop their findings further.

To read the original article, click here.

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