Usually, when people think about snails they envision slow-moving, harmless creatures that crawl and carry their shell on their back. But some snails are truly dangerous creatures and their venom is toxic enough to kill dozens of humans. This is the case of the cone snail.
A study conducted more than ten years ago suggested that the cone snail venom was powerful enough that only a few microliters of it could kill ten people. Despite it being extremely toxic, the cone snail venom has been studied by scientists for its potential use in creating potent painkiller drugs.
A team of scientists from the University of Queensland has conducted a new study in which they analyzed the chemical composition of the venom produced by a species of cone snail known as Conus episcopatus. Paul Alewood, one of the scientists involved in the research, explained that the new study is the first to identify all the toxins inside the cone snail venom. According to Alewood, this type of venom is a complex chemical cocktail and many of the toxins that make up the venom have not been studied in the past.
The team of scientists led by Alewood has devised a new technique of analyzing the composition and shape of the venom’s proteins. The new method they used helped them find six frameworks that were previously unknown. These new frameworks will be used in the development of new painkillers. Alewood and his team wrote in their study that in the last 25 years, the scientists discovered 25 frameworks, which means that finding six new one in just one research is an extraordinary achievement.
According to Alewood, they will use the newly found frameworks as the basis for new medication, which can be used for treating pain, cancer and many other health conditions. Alewood and his team described their recent findings in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A previous study has shown that the cone snail venom can be used in pain relief medication due to its powerful analgesic effects. The cone snail uses its venom to paralyze its prey before devouring it.
Scientists say the venom is very complex and contains different components with different effects. For example, one component proved to be a powerful sedative and put the lab mice to sleep, while other components found in the same venom made the animals run in circles or shake their bodies.
Image Source: thecdt