Scientists find potential opioid alternative in a snail

Opioids have given a great deal of relief to those in chronic pain, but their rampant abuse has ushered in a large-scale crisis.

Researchers at the University of Utah say they have found hope for an alternative treatment in a snail.

Baldomero Olivera, one of the researchers, noted, "Nature has evolved molecules that are extremely sophisticated and can have unexpected applications. We were interested in using venoms to understand different pathways in the nervous system."

One that has proven incredibly effective thus far comes from a small cone snail hailing from the Caribbean.

According to a news release about the discovery, "the researchers found that a compound isolated from snail's venom, Rg1A, acts on a pain pathway distinct from that targeted by opioid drugs."

Thus far, tests performed on rodents have produced incredibly promising results.

Not only did the substance alleviate pain, its effects endured long after the compound had worked its way through the system.

In regards to the results, Michael McIntosh from the University of Utah, said, "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."

He also noted, "We feel that drugs that work by this pathway may reduce burden of opioid use."

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