Tuesday, November 14, 2006

snails for what ails...

Snail Venom may Hold Possible Cure for Pain
AP-from Yahoo.com Nov. 14 2006

SALT LAKE CITY - University of Utah researchers have harvested a substance from the venom of a cone snail that shows promise in treating some human pain.The findings were published in Tuesday's edition of the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

...The Conus regious cone snail is tiny worm-hunting sea creature found in coastal waters between Georgia and Brazil. The snails produce poisonous venom to paralyze prey.

Previous studies of cone snails found compounds from venom effective in treating pain in terminal cancer patients. This new research shows other venom-derived compounds may ease pain associated with nerve damage from diseases like diabetes or traumatic injury.

The discovery is important in part because scientists have found a previously unsuspected molecular target for painkillers. It's that receptor — one not previously thought to be involved with pain — that when bound with the cone snail substance seems to reduce pain by preventing the body from triggering inflammation. That's the opposite effect of most drugs, which prompt the body to release natural substances in response to injury or pain.

The compound worked when tested on laboratory animals at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., McIntosh said.

Now that researchers have identified the mechanism they hope pharmaceutical companies will be able to use it to make a synthetic form of the medication in a pill form, McIntosh said. But it could be 10 years before any drugs reach the market, he said.

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