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Black Mamba Venom May Provide Pain Relief

While News to Know reports this month that Dutch researchers have found that simply drinking more water may improve headache, French researchers have looked further for answers to pain relief. They believe they have found some in the black mamba snake.

The venom of this snake, considered to be one of the deadliest in the world, contains molecules that researchers Sylvie Diochot and Anne Baron of the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) in Paris, France, say may relieve pain as effectively as morphine, but without the troubling side effects of narcotic medications, such as addiction, headache and vomiting.

According to a Time/CNN news story about this effort, researchers studied the venom of more than 40 poisonous creatures to find molecules that would affect pain transmission in specific pathways called acid-sensing ion channels.

With their first experiments—conducted in petri dishes—researchers saw that certain proteins from the black mamba venom showed promise. In mice, experiments with the venom proteins, which researchers named mambalgins, indicated their pain-killing ability was similar to that of morphine. Also promising was that the mice did not develop tolerance to the proteins as fast as they do with morphine, and they did not develop difficulty breathing—an additional problem associated with morphine. Mambalgins affect pain transmission through a different route than morphine, and this difference puts the venom derivative in its own class of analgesics and is responsible for the lack of side effects.

Seymour Diamond, MD, the Executive Chairman and Founder of the NHF, noted these findings may lead to a new non-habituating form of pain reliever, which after more study, may offer promise to migraine and headache sufferers.

Mamba venom painkillers will not be lining pharmacy shelves any time soon, but researchers have patented the compound and have partnered with a company that specializes in treating pain. Also, thanks to the black mamba, researchers have gained understanding about pain, including the acid sensing-ion channels and their role in pain transmission.

“These findings identify new potential therapeutic targets for pain and introduce natural peptides that block them to produce a potent analagesia,” the author wrote.

The study appeared online this month in the journal Nature.

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