- A natural compound found in small
marine snail could be a potent pain reliever
- The compound called Rg1A functions
as a pain pathway receptor and helps relieve pain
- Rg1A could be an alternative to
opioids, the highly addictive class of painkillers
A compound found
in the marine cone snail may offer an alternative to opioids for pain relief,
finds a study by scientists at the University of Utah. The compound was found
to block pain by targeting a pathway not associated with opioids. The study
conducted in rodents indicate that the benefits continue long after the
compound has cleared the body.
Opioids are drugs
that are commonly prescribed to relieve pain. Long-term use of opioid can lead
to addiction. Opioid abuse is a serious public health issue, which has reached
epidemic proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Scientists are looking for alternative therapies that do not rely on the opioid
pathways to relieve pain.
‘Opioid addiction can be reduced with a compound obtained from snail venom called Rg1A. The compound was found to relieve pain effectively than other common painkillers.’
evolved molecules that are extremely sophisticated and can have unexpected
applications," said Baldomera Olivera, Ph.D., professor of biology at the
University of Utah. "We were interested in using venoms to understand
different pathways in the nervous system."
Marine Cone Snail to
In the current
study, the scientists used a small marine snail for the research. The marine
cone snail called as Conus regius, commonly found in the Caribbean Sea, packs a
venomous punch, which is capable of paralyzing and killing its prey.
called Rg1A was isolated from the snail's venom. Rg1A acts on a pain pathway
distinct from the targeted Opiod Drugs
. In the mouse model, the scientists
showed that alpha9 and alpha10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR)
functions as a pain pathway receptor. RgIA4 is an effective compound to block
The pathway adds
to a small number of non-opioid-based pathways, which could be used to develop
a treatment for chronic pain. The scientists found that the duration of the
pain relief was long, outlasting the presence of the compound in the mouse
How Does the Compound
Help Relieve Pain
was found to have its effect in the body within 4 hours. But, it offers
beneficial effect even longer, said the scientists. The snail compound has a
restorative effect on the nervous system.
that the compound was still working 72 hours after the injection, still
preventing pain," said J. Michael McIntosh, M.D., professor of psychiatry
at the University of Utah Health Sciences.
particularly exciting about these results is the aspect of prevention,"
said McIntosh. "Once chronic pain has developed, it is difficult to treat.
This compound offers a potential new pathway to prevent pain from developing in
the first place and offer a new therapy to patients who have run out of options."
hope to continue pre-clinical tests to investigate the safety and effectiveness
of a new drug therapy.
Testing the RgIA
have shown that RgIA was effective in the mouse model. The research team wanted
to test whether the compound has a positive effect in people. So the team used
synthetic chemistry to engineer 20 analogs of the compound.
started with a key RgIA that fits into a lock, which is the pain pathway
receptor -nAChR. RgIA was used as a template to develop new keys called analogs
with slightly different configurations.
With the newly
developed analogs, the scientists found that RgIA4 tightly bound to the human
team administered the compound to rodents to test its effect. Initially, the
rodents were exposed to a Chemotherapy
drug, which causes extreme cold sensitivity and hypersensitivity to touch.
that are not normally painful, like sheets rubbing against the body or pants
against the leg, becomes painful," said McIntosh.
were treated with the compound did not experience pain compared to rodents that
were not treated with the compound. The findings suggest that nAChR acts as a
pain receptor pathway and RgIA4 prevents the receptor from being activated.
Most of the
that are available today work
through a limited number of pathways and are not sufficient to treat pain.
works by an entirely new pathway, which opens the door for new opportunities to
treat pain," said McIntosh. "We feel that drugs that work by this
pathway may reduce the burden of opioid use."
The findings are
published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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