Sea Snail Venom Could Be Painkillers; Alternative To Opioids

First Posted: Feb 24, 2017 03:45 AM EST

A new study indicates that the venom from a small sea snail could treat the chronic pain sufferers. It is also found that it could be an alternative to overused opioid medications, which are considered the worst drug epidemic in American history.

The findings of the discovery were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The venom contains a pain-killing compound referred to as RgIA. It is a peptide that is visible in the venom of Conus regius, which is a small sea snail species with a cone-shaped shell found mostly in the Caribbean Sea.

The study involved rats, in which the researchers tested the compound in them. They discovered that the compound could relieve the pains in three days, according to ITV.

The team used computer modeling and discovered that RgIA provides a molecular fit with a pain pathway in rats referred to as a9a10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) that block the receptor when it binds. This pathway is part of the nervous system that responds to the neurotransmitter chemical acetylcholine.

The team discovered that one of the analogs called RgIA4 also binds tightly with the human version of this pain receptor. They tested the RgIA4 to rats and mice that had been given a chemotherapy drug. The results showed that rodents with RgIA4 did not experience pain. On the other hand, the untreated animals suffered pain when given the chemotherapy medication. And yet, the genetically altered rodents with a9a10 receptor did not also experience pain, according to Science Alert.

J Michael McIntosh, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah Health Sciences, said that what is exciting about the results of the study is the aspect of prevention. He further said that once chronic pain has developed, it is difficult to treat. He then concluded that this compound offers a potential new pathway to prevent pain from developing in the first place and offers a new therapy to patients who have run out of options.

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