These harmless-looking Conus regius sea snails are actually venomous predators. But they may slither to the aid of millions of people in persistent or chronic pain. Many sufferers take opioid-based drugs, which soothe pain by blocking pain receptors – tiny chemical delivery points in the body and brain. But opioids are highly addictive, so the hunt is on for an alternative. Scientist’s studying the effects of Conus regius venom on the nervous system made a surprising discovery – a chemical which blocks a different set of pain receptors. Then, another surprise: the effects of this potential drug are long-lasting, suggesting it might prevent chronic pain developing in the first place. It’s been tested in rats, but a slightly different design of the chemical may work in humans – a great help to those hypersensitive to the touch following chemotherapy, or suffering chronic pain as a result of nerve damage.
Written by John Ankers
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