Sea snail venom could be 'the holy grail' in pain therapeutics

Australian scientists are one step closer to developing new pain relief drugs from the chemicals used by venomous sea snails.

The chemicals are known as conotoxins and up until now it has been hard to administer the right dose without causing bad side effects.

But researchers working across three different Australian universities say they have made a breakthrough that could make it safer to use the toxins.

It is hoped the drugs will eventually reduce reliance on highly addictive opioid-based painkillers and provide effective relief for the one in five Australians affected by chronic pain.

Macdonald Christie, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Sydney, has been looking into the use of conotoxins as part of a study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

"Early indications are that conotoxins are more effective than both opioids and cannabinoids, may have fewer side effects, and the additional benefit of treating the cause of pain," he said.

Research has found that conotoxins appear to provide long-lasting pain relief through a range of mechanisms, such as blocking the pain signal through the nervous system.

"Unlike the classical drugs that we use — opiates, local anaesthetics that shut down all nerve activity — we're looking for very specific targets," Professor Christie said.

"And that's really the holy grail of development of new pain therapeutics, because the drugs that we have at the moment don't work well for many people."

 

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Credit ABC Net

 

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