Queensland cone snail venom could be used for cancer treatment and pain management, as it is rich in new molecules with great potential for medicine.
The Queensland cone snail is found in Australia and it is definitely unlike any other snail you might have ever heard about before. It is definitely not the harmless creature that you might be thinking of, but quite the skilled killer. The six-inch snail has a very smooth hunting technique, because it first stings its prey with an extremely powerful painkiller and only afterwords it stings it with a very potent venom.
A cone snail bite could actually prove to be deadly even to humans, so fish do not stand a chance in the face of this vicious killer. What is absolutely amazing about the cone snail is that it can stay hidden under the sand at the bottom of the sea and use an air tube to breathe while waiting for its prey to pass by.
When the snail feels that fish is near, it can use a specialized tube to sting the fish, thus delivering the painkiller and the venom. In a matter of moments, the fish is paralyzed and then the snail will engulf it whole and then remain hidden as it feasts on prey.
A team of researchers form the University of Queensland in Australia, led by Professor Paul Alewood have decided to look closer at the chemicals that Conus episcopatus, the cone snail, uses in its hunt in order to identify the uses they might have in modern medicine.
And it seems that the substances that this small killer uses have the potential to enrich the arsenal of a great many fields, as the painkillers that the cone snail uses to essentially anesthetize its prey are much more powerful than morphine and its venom includes a wide range of peptides that could be used to kill off certain types of cancer.
“Combining that technology, we are now getting a lot of surprises,” said Queensland’s Professor Alewood. “We’re finding there’s probably not 100 but more like 10,000 components.”
He also said that these new painkiller molecules could give way to the development of new medication that could be employed in treating severe pain caused by damage to the nerves or diabetes. Furthermore, it seems that the molecule pallet that they have discovered could even be effective in cancer treatment.
This study is only the initial stage of the development of such drugs, but it has provided valuable information regarding a new source for new generation medication. The venom of other species of animals might be researched using the new techniques employed by the University of Queensland, so that in the future even more new molecules could be discovered.
Image Source: seashell-collector.com