The venom collected from a species of cone snail may be used in the near future as the key ingredient for super-efficient painkiller drugs, according to a recent research.
A team of scientists from the University of Queensland has conducted a study in which they analyzed the molecular structure of cone snail venom. The species of cone snail is called Conus episcopatus and it lives along Australia’s east coast.
This is not the first time scientists study animal venom in order to use it as powerful painkillers. Previous studies have shown that cobra and bee venom could be used for its analgesic properties. The new study looks at cone snail venom as a potential key ingredient in the development of powerful analgesics. According to the researchers, they have analyzed the venom composition from more than 700 species of cone snails before identifying this specific one that could be used in the future for treating pain and even cancer.
Paul Alewood, a researcher at the University of Queensland, and one of the lead authors of the study, explained that the cone snail venom is a complex cocktail of chemicals. Alewood added that most of the toxins found in the venom have not been studied sufficiently in the past.
Although previous research has proven that cone snail venom has pharmaceutical properties, the new study is the first one that analyzes the toxins in details. In order to determine the chemical composition of the cone snail venom, the scientists used bioinformatics and biochemical tools to more than 3,300 toxin sequences, which were classified into nine existing groups and 16 new ones. All these were discovered in a single specimen of cone snail, said the scientists. Alewood believes they will discover even more molecules in the venom of other species of cone snails, and he is looking forward to analyze them using the new methods.
Researchers said that in the last 25 years they have discovered 25 3D molecules known as frameworks, which they have used in developing pharmaceutical drugs. The new study has identified 6 more frameworks which can be used to develop new and more efficient painkillers.
Alewood is hoping that the recently-identified frameworks will be used in new medication for treating pain, cancer and many other illnesses.
The researchers described the findings of their new study on the cone snail venom in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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