A pain-suppressing substance has been discovered in the venom of a cone snail that dwells deep in the ocean, according to scientists.
It’s thought to be connected to a hormone in the human body that decreases pain, but the snail version is said to persist longer and could be used to help design new pain medications. Cone snails come in over 1,000 different species, each with its own combination of toxins in their venom.
When scientists were examining the Asprella clade, they discovered the snail adopted a hunting method that had never been seen previously in the species. The researchers discovered a component in the snail’s venom that is similar to the hormone somatostatin, which lowers pain in humans.
Unlike short-lived human and synthetic equivalents, the snail’s chemical, Conosomatin Ro1, has a half-life of more than 158 hours, according to the researchers. It also attaches to two of the five human pain-inhibition receptors, implying that it would work in humans. They also looked at the effects of Conosomatin Ro1 in mice and discovered that larger doses of the molecule reduced pain sensitivity.
Cone snails also produce an insulin-like substance that is being used to develop insulin medications.
“They’ve had millions of years to evolve the best compounds. There are hundreds of toxins arranged in potentially thousands of combinations of venoms,” Safavi-Hemami says.