Researchers at the University of Utah have isolated a compound derived from snail venom that appears to target a pain pathway not associated with opioids. The compound, Rg1A, was tested in rodent models, and was found to effectively block a pain pathway receptor, with a pain relieving effect that outlasted the presence of the compound in the animal. Investigator Baldomera Olivera, PhD, professor of biology at University of Utah remarked “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.” The findings are reported online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Rg1A compound exits the body within 4 hours of introduction, but the researchers noted a pain relieving effect in the rodent test subjects 72 hours post-injection. The duration suggests that Rg1A may have a restorative effect on the nervous system, according to the authors. J Michael McIntosh, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University commented “Once chronic pain has developed, it is difficult to treat. This compound offers a potential new pathway to prevent pain from developing in the first place and offer a new therapy to patients who have run out of options.” The team plans to proceed to pre-clinical tests of safety and efficacy of the new therapeutic approach