How about Snail Venom for a Painkiller?

There are good reasons to believe that we are on the verge of an epoch-making discovery in the sphere of pain relief. More specifically, scientists have detected unique pain-killing properties in the venom of Conus regius snails, which are found in the Caribbean.

There are good reasons to believe that we are on the verge of an epoch-making discovery in the sphere of pain relief. More specifically, scientists have detected unique pain-killing properties in the venom of Conus regius snails, which are found in the Caribbean.

Opioids

Today, doctors use opioids to relieve pain. These drugs’ effect consists in attaching to receptors in the brain and/or other organs and signaling the brain to reduce pain and exert a general sedative effect on the body (slow breathing, calm mood, etc.) Opioids’ structure is similar to that of a neurotransmitter, which is naturally produced in the body. This similarity tricks the receptors into letting the drugs activate nerve cells. However, the mechanism of this activation is different from that triggered by natural neurotransmitters and generates abnormal signals. Besides, opioids stimulate the reward system and trigger the production of dopamine – a neurotransmitter, which excites euphoric sensations. This makes opioids very addictive. There is a scary statistics showing an increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose. Second, lengthy use of opioids often reduces the pain-killing effect and presses patients to increase doses. Finally, there seems to be no option for a patient but to…

Use snail venom!

Snails use it to protect themselves from predators and kill prey. One day a man was attacked and ended up with one of his arms partially immobilized for a little while. Happily, this killer substance contains a compound, which can kill pain in a much less destructive and more effective way than opioids. Besides, scientists from the University of Utah say that it produces a healthy effect on the nervous system.

How it works

This compound is known as RG1A, which has turned out to match A9A10 – a pain pathway in rats. In other words, it can bind with and block nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in rats. The pathway responds to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter.

The scientists applied RG1A to rats, which had undergone chemotherapy and grown extremely sensitive to cold and touch. The compound dulled the sensitivity. After that, they produced RG1A4 – a synthetic clone of RG1A, which could bind with similar receptors in humans. They applied this new version to rats and mice in the same way, and it also worked. Notably, the effect from the injection lasted 72 hours.

The study involved molecular computer modeling. There is a good chance that this model will work on humans. If it does, we may receive an effective and less adverse pain-killer derived from snail venom.

That could be quite a way out for patients dealing with chronic pain, which opioids are powerless to eliminate. The research has provided ground for pre-clinical trials. If they go well, clinical trials with humans involved will follow.

Future

If the method passes all trials well and the new drug be called into service, we can expect be a rapid decline in the use of opioids. This will signify a new era in pain management, and there will be a much longed-for cure for chronic pain.

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