Snail Venom May Be Super-Morphine for Humans
Becuase what we’re dealing with is effectively “mind pain,” it follows that treating it is far more difficult than conventional pain, if not just impossible. In fact, only one-in-three patients sees relief at all from the wide field of current treatments, from antidepressants to opiods to pot. Even with surgery performed on actual nervous system tissue—literally sealing off pain’s pathways—relief is fleeting.
Opiods, like morphine, are the most consistently effective form of treatment for neuropathic pain. But by now we’re all pretty well aware of the dire risks of the drug and its siblings: addiction, overdose, abuse. But, as far as helping people dealing with this extreme catagory of pain, there’s nothing else like it. Or is there? Enter the common cone snail, whose venom may function as a pain reliever 100 times as powerful as morphine, according to research presented today at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
The snail venom contains small protiens called conotoxins, a potent class of neurotoxins whose exact mechanisms of toxicity are as yet poorly understood. However, their analgesic properties have already been noted, and so far one drug currently exists on the market based on conotoxins. The catch is that that drug, ziconotide, needs to be injected directly into the lower spinal cord, which, obviously, isn’t a day-to-day option.