Sea Snail's Toxic Venom May Bring Relief for Chronic Pain

Aug 01, 2015 12:00 AM

Author: J. Michael McIntosh

J. Michael McIntosh

University of Utah researchers identified a new potential pain management medication that has implications for the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain due to injury to the nerves, spinal cord or brain. This discovery is the result of a collaborative study of the deadly venom from predatory marine cone snails (Conus generalis) that are indigenous to the South China Sea.

In a study with rats, the U researchers identified a peptide, GeXIVA alphaO-contoxin, found in the venom of the cone snails that appears to relieve pain without impairing motor skills, suggesting it does not cross the blood-brain barrier as most narcotic pain medications do. In addition, the analgesic effects of GeXIVA occur at much lower doses with greater than or equal effects of the opioid morphine. “This new information may lead to a new treatment for chronic and debilitating pain in millions of people around the world,” says J. Michael McIntosh, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah.

Neuropathic pain can result from damage to nerves from diabetes, degenerative disc disease, and tumors pressing on the nerves, infection, repetitive motion disorders and many other conditions. In some cases doctors cannot find an exact cause of the pain but it is constant and can be intense. There is no completely effective treatment for this type of severe incessant pain. But identifying this novel mechanism for pain management opens the door for further research and future clinical trials of medications.

Driving Discovery cone snail