How snails can help treat chronic pain

April 16th, 2008 - 4:13 pm ICT by admin  

Sydney, April 16 (IANS) Molecules from snail venom could help in the development of an oral drug to treat chronic pain, a new study has found. Studies have shown that these molecules are effective in relieving neuropathic pain in animals, a very severe form of chronic pain and very difficult to treat.

“Regular pain occurs when the nervous system is stimulated by, for example, an injury, whereas neuropathic pain occurs when the nervous system itself is damaged,” said Richard Clark of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) who conducted the study along with David Craik.

“Current treatment only provide meaningful relief for one in three patients, and all of the current leading drugs have serious side effects, as well as taking up to three weeks to begin to take effect.”

Peptides (small proteins) from snail venom can target these receptors with a high degree of accuracy, thus eliminating severe side effects.

But peptides also degrade rapidly in the body. Craik and Clark overcame this problem by engineering a circular peptide, using a circular protein backbone discovered by Craik and found in plants such as violets.

“Successful outcomes from this project will provide additional confirmation of the suitability of our molecule as a treatment for neuropathic pain,” Clark said.

“Armed with these data, we will be able to secure a commercial partner and develop this molecule into a tablet for sufferers of chronic pain.”

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