1. ITV Report

Scientist attempt to create new pain drug from... snail venom

Scientist attempt to create new pain drug from snail venom. Photo: inrich BÀsemann/DPA/Press Association Images

Experts are attempting to create a pain relief drug derived from snail venom. Scientists have reported creating five new "experimental substances" based on a tiny protein found in the venom of a cone snail.The substances, which could potentially be stronger than morphine, could one day lead to the development of a drug to treat chronic nerve pain, they said.

This is an important incremental step that could serve as the blueprint for the development of a whole new class of drugs capable of relieving one of the most severe forms of chronic pain that is currently very difficult to treat.

– Lead author Professor David Craik, from the University of Queensland in Australia

Cone snails are marine animals that use venom to paralyse their prey.The venom contains hundreds of small proteins known as conotoxins which appear to have an analgesic effect in humans, he said.

We don't know about side effects yet, as it hasn't been tested in humans. But we think it would be safe."It acts by a completely different mechanism than morphine so we think it has a minimal possibility of producing the side-effects of that medication. That is one of the big advantages of this drug.

Prof Craik and his team, who will present their finding at an American Chemical Society conference, are working to develop a conotoxin-based drug that can be taken orally - unlike the only drug that uses the protein now which must be injected into a patient's spine.Experiments on rats have shown that a prototype drug has been shown to "significantly reduce pain", he said.