Pain-Blocking Compound Found In Snail – The Future of Non-Opioid Painkillers?
University of Utah researchers have discovered a pain-blocking compound in a tiny snail (also known as conus regius) that may play a significant role in future of non-opioid painkillers. The small marine snail is common to the Caribbean Sea and capable of paralyzing and killing its prey with its venom.
The compound provides a barrier to pain by targeting a non-opioid pathway. Indeed, rodent research suggests that the benefits may last for some time after the body has eliminated the compound.
Baldomera Olivera, Ph.D., professor of biology at the University of Utah:
“Nature has evolved molecules that are extremely sophisticated and can have unexpected applications. We were interested in using venoms to understand different pathways in the nervous system.”
About The Study
Using rodent models, researchers discovered the compound, also known as Rg1A, blocked the a9a10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR), which acts as a pain pathway receptor.
Also, the pain relief was notably long-lasting, and the effects continued long after the compound was no longer present in the animal’s body. Moreover, the compound makes it way through the body in 4 hours, but scientists discovered the compound was still blocking pain up to 3 days after the injection.
Researchers believe that the extended duration may suggest that the compound has a “restorative effect” on some nervous system components. If true, the compound may offer a new way to prevent pain development and relieve chronic pain – a condition which can be notoriously difficult to treat.
To test whether the compound would work in people as well as rodents, researchers engineered 20 analogs of the compound. They began with a “key,” or RG1A, and using it as a template, developed new keys (analogs) with slightly different configuration. They discovered that an analog, Rg1A4., best fit the human receptor.
They then tested the analog by administering it to rodents exposed to a drug that causes extreme cold sensitivity and touch hypersensitivity. Untreated rodent experienced pain after drug exposure, but rodents given the compound did not.
The findings were reported online in the February 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.