Scientists developing pain reliever derived from snail venom

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

A group of scientists claim they have created at least five new experimental substances based on a tiny protein found in cone snail venom that could someday help treat chronic nerve pain.

"This is an important incremental step that could serve as the blueprint for the development of a whole new class of drugs capable of relieving one of the most severe forms of chronic pain that is currently very difficult to treat," said Dr. David Craik. of the University of Queensland.

Cone snails are marine animals that use venom to paralyze their prey. This venom contains hundreds of small proteins known as conotoxins. But in humans, Craik says some of these conotoxins appear to have analgesic effects. So far, however, only one conotoxin-derived medication has been approved for human use. This drug, ziconotide, has one big drawback: It has to be infused directly into the lower part of the spinal cord — a clearly invasive procedure.

The team says it is working to develop a conotoxin-based drug that can be taken orally, which would be much more practical for patients.

Craik made his presentation at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, in Dallas on Sunday.

 


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