Washington, Boffins have used the magical properties of the deadly sea snail venom to create a drug that can kill pain in humans.
The snail uses venom to paralyze passing fish, but scientists found that chemicals in the poison could also obstruct pain signals in the human brain.
About 25 years ago, scientists at the University of Utah, in the US, were able to detach a molecule from the venom that also had painkilling properties in humans.
Now researchers have produced a synthetic version of the compound with parallel pain-killing effects, and it forms the foundation of the new drug, Prialt.
Prialt is designed to ease persistent pains in people who suffer from various types of cancer and other very serious diseases. It is a very powerful drug, as it was created to lessen chronic pains in individuals that no longer responded to morphine therapy.
The treatment is expected to block the calcium channels of the nerves that transmit pain signals in the body. It targets a particular subgroup known as N-type calcium channels , which play a role in some kinds of pain.
Prialt is 1,000 times more potent than morphine but, unlike that drug, is not addictive.
The treatment based on synthetic venom will not be administered orally, but directly into the fluid around the spinal cord through a little push. However, it may have side effects such as nausea, dizziness or blurred vision due to the fact that it is a very strong drug.
Prialt, or ziconotide, is the result of more than 20 years' research by a scientist born in the Philippines, Baldomera Olivera, who is a professor at the University of Utah.