Australian scientists have created a snail-venom inspired medication that can offer powerful relief for people who have severe and chronic pain.
The drug potency comes from the conotoxins found in the venom of a cone snail - an ocean-dwelling carnivorous predator that lives in tropical waters.
This miracle molecule is a promising discovery that is much better than the previous forms as it can be taken orally, instead of through the invasive spinal-cord injection.
The drug appears to work more effectively than existing drugs such as morphine, at a much lower concentration without posing the risks of addiction, based on results collected on rodent studies.
David Craik, chemist at the University of Queensland said many people from all over the world have been contacting him asking if they could get into clinical trials.
While snails may seem an unlikely source of pharmaceutical ideas, the cone snail's venom tells a different story as scientist have been studying the conotoxins - made up of hundreds short proteins called peptides - since 1990s with the hope of finding their benefits as a medication.
The problem with oral digestion of peptides, according to Craik and colleague is that the body breaks them down rapidly before they get to reach their receptors.
The chemists and fellow colleagues found inspiration from an African plant that has been traditionally used by witchdoctors as tea to speed up labor and childbirth.
Analysis of the active ingredient in the plant showed it was a peptide with a unique shape -a circle. The circular structure of the peptide made it more stable than most peptides.
Craik's team recreated a synthetic conotoxins, based on the findings and added up extra amino acids to modify the structure of the peptide to turn it into a circle.
Using the drug in rat studies, they found that the molecule soothed pain for more than four hours at doses more than 100 times smaller than the usual doses of gabapentin - a common drug used in the treatment of nervous system pain.
This makes the cone-snail inspired drug such a promising source of pain relief for patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other conditions that are associated with pain.
Craik and his team of scientists are still awaiting approval from the government and seeking funding before any clinical trials can be initiated.