Researchers for the University of Utah have discovered a venom compound in deep water cone snails that could unlock a wide variety of pharmaceutical applications in terms of developing new drug treatments.
Since the 1970’s, researchers have been studying cone snails and their venom, with decades of information gathered from studies revealing how venom compounds interact with the bodies of prey fish. This includes how the venoms interact with the receptors in the body, that overwhelm natural biochemical processes. Using this information, scientists and researchers have managed to develop a pain medication known as Prialt, with more recent investigations suggesting that insulin analogs produced by cone snails could be adapted as a fast-acting insulin to treat diabetes.
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In a new study, the researchers have discovered that cone snails produce a venom compound similar to the hormone somatostatin - the main inhibitor of growth hormones. This particular hormone is currently used to treat growth disorders.
"Cone snail venom is like a natural library of compounds." adds Iris Bea Ramiro of the University of Copenhagen. "It is just a matter of finding what is in that library."
The results of the study they conducted suggest that the range of biochemical tools in venom may be considerably broader than previously thought, and could even be modified to make treatments even more effective. Next, the researchers plan to investigate whether the new compound could be potentially used as an anti-inflammatory or pain reliever.