MAR 28, 2022 1:00 PM PDT

An Alternative to Morphine Could Come From a Poisonous Snail

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Morphine is a synthetic narcotic designed to treat severe pain. As an opioid, tt is created from opium, or the seeds from certain poppy plants.

While morphine has been a powerful pain management drug, morphine has also proven to be highly addictive—over time, sustained use of morphine can reduce the body’s tolerance to it, requiring more morphine to achieve the same effect. Though morphine is a controlled substance and used in medical settings, addiction still occurs. According to the CDC, nearly half a million people died of opioid drug overdose from 1999 to 2019. This number includes deaths from heroin, morphine, and other pain medications (such as oxycodone). 

As a result, new pain management methods are needed that are both effective and reduce the risk of addiction. 

New research published in Science Advances outlines how a toxin derived from the poisonous Rolan cone (Conus rolani) snail species works as a painkiller, one that is potentially more effective and less addictive than morphine. 

Conus rolani is one of nearly 800 sea snail species that use poison to attack and inactivate potential prey. Unlike other snails, however, Conus rolani sometimes waits hours for their slow-acting poison to completely incapacitate prey. 

Researchers studied a specific Conus rolani toxin on mice, and found that it provided effective pain relief for far longer than morphine did. The research team had replicated nearly 100 of the toxin’s present in Conus rolani poison. They took x-ray images of the toxin that produced a positive effect in mice, and found that it resembled somatostatin, a naturally occurring hormone in humans that has been shown to help regulate pain.

The use of snails in medicine and pain management is not new, nor is turning to nature for inspiration in the development of therapeutics. Some pain medications have been developed using the Conus magus snail species. For example, Ziconotide is an FDA-approved medication for severe pain. However, many of these medications are currently expensive and very invasively administered (they must be administered directly into the central nervous system). The toxin from Conus rolani could make pain medication more accessible. 

Sources: EurekaAlert!; Science Advances; Journal of Proteomics 

About the Author
Professional Writing
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
You May Also Like
MAR 30, 2022
Immunology
Killifish Research Model Shows Antibody Diversity Declines with Age
MAR 30, 2022
Killifish Research Model Shows Antibody Diversity Declines with Age
Shown in in this image (courtesy of Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing/CC BY-ND) the African killifish can be us ...
APR 12, 2022
Neuroscience
Your Brain on Natural vs. Added Sugar
APR 12, 2022
Your Brain on Natural vs. Added Sugar
When we think of sugar, we often affiliate it with junk food like cereal, candy, or soda, and in turn often associate it ...
APR 10, 2022
Plants & Animals
Turmeric Helps Regenerate Blood Vessels and Tissue
APR 10, 2022
Turmeric Helps Regenerate Blood Vessels and Tissue
Turmeric is a common Indian spice used in a wide variety of dishes, and is derived from the root of a turmeric plant. It ...
APR 10, 2022
Microbiology
"Raised Without Antibiotics" Labels Found to be Misleading
APR 10, 2022
"Raised Without Antibiotics" Labels Found to be Misleading
There is growing concern about whether our antibiotics can keep pace with the threats posed by new and emerging bacteria ...
MAY 02, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
A New Type of Cell Division is Discovered
MAY 02, 2022
A New Type of Cell Division is Discovered
Scientists studying zebrafish larvae noticed something weird. Skin cells seemed to be dividing without replicating their ...
JUN 25, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Similar 'Jumping Genes' are Active in Human and Octopus Brains
JUN 25, 2022
Similar 'Jumping Genes' are Active in Human and Octopus Brains
Cephalopods, including octopuses, have exceptionally large and complex nervous systems; the octopod brain is thought to ...
Loading Comments...