While a growing number of the country’s population has fallen into addiction as a result of the pill pushing prescription painkiller industry, researchers think they’ve found something in the waters of the Caribbean Sea that may have the power to put the opioid nation back together. Scientists at the University of Utah say they have tumbled onto a small sea snail that they believe holds the answer to opioid addiction. Research published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that it is the venom of these tiny marine mollusks (Conus regius) that actually has a therapeutic effect on the brain.
There is a distinct compound of the venom (Rg1A) that has medicinal properties. Scientists say this component has an astonishing ability to run interference on pain receptors that are completely unaffected by opioid medications, the report reads. Baldomero Olivera, professor of biology at the University of Utah said, “Nature has evolved molecules that are extremely sophisticated, and can have unexpected applications.” The goal of the study was to “addresses the need to phase out opioids as the major analgesic drugs for moderate to severe chronic pain,” which researchers believe they have accomplished. This isn’t the first time researchers have deliberated over how the RgIA compound could be helpful in creating non-opioid medications. Previous research shows that this aspect of the snail’s’ venom, which is used to paralyze and kill prey in the deep, has killed pain in rodents in a number of experiments. However, it wasn’t until now that scientists say they have been able to understand the full scope of how this compound works on pain.
Scientists say the compound provides pain relief for up to 72 hours after being ingested. Although the latest discovery may not be the cure all for those succumbed to opioid addiction, it may open up a new avenue for the pharmaceutical industry to begin marketing more natural pain management tools that don’t come with such high risks. Researcher J. Michael McIntosh stated, “What is particularly exciting about these results is the aspect of prevention. Once chronic pain has developed, it is difficult to treat. This compound offers a potential new pathway to prevent chronic pain from developing in the first place and also offers a new therapy to patients with established pain who have run out of options.”