Traditionally, snakes have not been regarded as friendly animals. In fact, snakes have struggled to gain respect given their track record in poisoning and killing humans. However, a new study has arisen that may help their case…
The black mamba (shown above), is considered to be one of the most lethal snakes on earth. However, a team of researchers in France discovered compunds in black mamba venom that could actually relieve pain. In fact, when the substance was tested on mice, it’s “pain-killing” effects were comprable to that of morphine!
The compounds are called mambalgins, and the seem to work by blocking certain channels and pathways in nerve cells. Generally speaking, the said channels open up in acidic environments, thus triggering pain signals. The mambalgins work by preventing the flow of charged atoms through the channels, thus stoping the pain killers entirely.
In this study, the analysis of the mambalgins was conducted on mice. The team injected the mice with either the mambalgin or morphine before exposing the animals to “pain” (such as painful chemicals). In the majority of the steps, the venom treatment and the morphine alleviated the pain equally as well. However, because mambalgin happens to cure pain through an entirely different mechanism than morphine, it lacks some of the major side effects of morphine such as nausea or seizure.
As with any new scientific breakthrough or theory, the results are still preliminary. Currently, the performance of mambalgins have only been tested on mice. The researchers are predicting a long while before mambalgins may be of real clinical use as they have to undergo a more rigorous scientific evaluation, not to mention all of the legal hurdles. So don’t go out searching for a snake to bite you just yet! 🙂
I found this article very intriguing and ironic. I found this ironic because the source of this new pain killer is one of the most pain-full animals on the planet. This is also intriguing because scientists may have just stumbled upon the first “pain-less” pain killer, which is ironic in itself as well. On a larger scale, I find this article even more fascinating because it testifies to just how little we know about the environment we live in.
Great article, Rawgdog. Morphine and other opiate derivatives have long been the best painkillers for acute and inflammatory pain, but these mambalgins seem to show some promise. Apparently, the ion channels that these newfound compounds block has not been utilized by any other medication of similar purpose. These chemicals also don’t have the risk of respiratory depression that morphine has. Here’s a link to the scientists’ findings: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature11494.html