A protein found in cone snail venom could someday lead to the development of safe and effective oral medications for treatment of chronic nerve pain, according to new research to be presented this week at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Experimental substances created from the protein could potentially be stronger than morphine, with fewer side effects and lower risk of abuse.
Lead study author David Craik, PhD, University of Queensland stated the importance of this “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.” Chronic neuropathic pain, often triggered by diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other disease, can last for months, years or even decades. Current treatments have serious side effects and provide relief to only about one in every three patients.
Cone snails are marine animals that use venom to paralyze their prey. This venom contains hundreds of peptides (small proteins) known as conotoxins. But in humans, some of these conotoxins appear to have analgesic effects. Read a news story about the findings here.