Snails are slow creatures that most people never spend a second a day thinking of. Kids might say that the creatures carry their ‘homes’ with them, but most of us rarely even see them anywhere. Cancer is terrible disease that brings misery in many people’s home and hearts, and that many of us spend time fearing.
But cone snails may find a new level of appreciation as a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland (Australia) has shown that the toxins found in the venom of a certain species of cone snail could prove to be very useful in the development of better pain meds, and better cancer meds.
The species in question is Conus Episcopatus. The creatures can be found along Australia’s eastern coast and their venom stood out to researchers when they looked at no less than 700 different species of highly poisonous cone snails.
Paul Alewood, a professor from the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, gave a statement saying that cone snails have a complex cocktail made out of a great number of chemicals, and that said toxins have been overlooked until now.
He went on to add that despite this, cone snail venom has been known to host these valuable toxins for a really long time. What he and his colleagues have done with their study was to simply offer the first ever snapshot portraying the toxins that reside in the venom of just one cone snail.
Fir their study, the researchers used bioinformatics and biochemical tools to examine the shape and the compositions of proteins found within the venom. They found 3.305 toxin sequences in a single species of cone snail, than had to classify these toxin sequences in nine (9) existing superfamilies, but also in sixteen (16) newly discovered superfamilies.
As if this wasn’t impressive enough, and deadly if you were to come into contact with one of the creatures, professor Alewood informed that researchers actually expect there to be many more interesting molecules hidden in the venom from other species of cone snail, and that they have every intention of seeking them out.
Professor Alewood and his team hope that their work will lead to the development of new medications which can treat a range of different diseases, among which chronic pain and cancer seem to have stood out.
On top of everything, the approach that the researchers took on this study could also be uses to look at the venom of other animals, find other potential ingredients for drugs and get a better sense of biology of these creatures.