Thousands of toxins hidden deep within the venom of a sea cone snail in Queensland has been discovered by Australian researchers.
The discovered toxins could be a new target to develop drugs to treat pain, cancer and other diseases.
"Cone snail venom is known to contain toxins proven to be valuable drug leads. This study gives the first-ever snapshot of the toxins that exist in the venom of a single cone snail," said, Professor Paul Alewood, from University of Queensland (UQ)'s Institute for Molecular Bioscience.
"Cone snail venoms are a complex cocktail of many chemicals and most of these toxins have been overlooked in the past," said Alewood.
Using biochemical and bio-informatics tools, researchers developed a new method to analyze the structure of the venom toxins.
The new method helped researchers to accurately measure and analyze the structure, activity and composition of the diverse range of proteins within venom.
Researchers discovered the highest number of peptides produced in a single cone snail.
"We also discovered six original 'frameworks' 3D-shaped molecules suitable as drug leads - which we expect will support drug development in the near future," said Alewood.
Over the past 25 years, researchers have discovered 25 known frameworks, which have already led to a drug or drug lead for several diseases.
"We expect these newly discovered frameworks will also lead to new medications, which can be used to treat pain, cancer and a range of other diseases," said Alewood.
"This new method of analysis can also be used in research on other animal venoms, or in related fields, such as studying protein expression from cells. It will help us gain a better understanding of biology, look for disease patterns or discover potential new drugs," Alewood added.
The study was published in the journal PNAS.