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Black Mamba Snake Venom Could Provide New Painkilling Compounds

I have previously posted about the potential for new pain-killing compounds being produced from research using spider venom, and now I’ve recently discovered that another animal may offer similar potential for creating a new pain-killing compound – that is – the Black Mamba Snake.

The Black Mamba Snake is one of the most venomous snakes in the world, affectionately and “technically” known as Dendroaspis Polylepis – let’s just stick with Black Mamba though, sounds a lot cooler and is much easier to pronounce and remember. The venom in the Black Mamba is highly toxic, causing an adult human to collapse within 45 minutes of being bitten. Without any anti-venom being administered, death usually occurs within 7-15 hours after being injected by the poisonous venom.

What’s particularly interesting though about the Black Mamba venom is the pain-relieving compounds within the venom, called mambalgins. These compounds have been found to be as strong as some opiates, including morphine, and without the risk of respiratory distress and some other side-effects common with opiate pain-relieving medications.

The following extract from the researchers provides an excellent analysis as to the compounds and their potential for future use:

“It's remarkable that this was made possible from the deadly venom of one of the most venomous snakes," said study leader Anne Baron, of France's Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology.

Prior studies have shown that certain snake venoms contain toxins that can evoke pain by activating acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) in the central and peripheral nervous system. Baron and colleagues discovered that with the isolation of peptides they named mambalgins, pain can be minimized or even stopped by targeting and inhibiting certain ASICs within the body.

The new study tested this idea on mice.

"Pain pathways are pretty well conserved between mice and humans, making us confident that these peptides will also be efficient in humans," said Baron, whose study will appear tomorrow in the journal Nature.

Though the breakthrough is encouraging, Zoltan Takacs cautioned against expecting quick drug development for human use. "To develop a new drug, you need 10 to 15 years, hundreds of millions of dollars," he said, "and you still have no guarantees."

Baron and colleagues plan to advance their findings to clinical levels, though any development will take a number of years. However, Baron said, they were issued a patent and the pain management drug development company Theralpha is currently working on developing the painkilling compounds.

Who knows when this type of new pain-killing medication could be available in the future, but it is sounding like a promising investment and offers hope, especially for chronic pain sufferers who have dependence or addiction issues to current opiate-class drugs.

Reference:

  1. http://news.nationalgeographic.com.au/news/2012/10/121003-morphine-painkillers-black-mamba-snakes-health-science/
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