The compound from a species of cone shell, a beautiful, but often deadly type of mollusc found on the Great Barrier Reef, could hold the key to a new era of powerful drugs to treat chronic pain common in diseases such as cancer, AIDS and arthritis. In laboratory studies the drug, known as ACV1, is more powerful and longer lasting than morphine. And, unlike morphine, it is not addictive and lacks the side-effects of morphine, namely constipation and respiratory depression.
The team from the University of Melbourne, made ACV1 from the venom of a cone shell for biological testing. They will make further information available this week at the International Society for Toxinology congress being held in Cairns (8-12 July), and formally announce the discovery the following week at the Venoms to Drugs conference on Heron Island (14-19 July).
"We have advanced the research to a stage where we now seek a commercial partner to take this novel compound to human trials and develop it as a treatment for chronic pain," says Associate Professor Bruce Livett, team leader and Reader in The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Melbourne.
"More than 60 percent of the community will suffer from chronic pain sometime in their life. The global market for drugs to treat for this form of pain is in excess of $1 billion and the medical profession is crying out for alternative drug treatments," he says.
"There are potential wider applications for this compound, including pain relief from sports injury and infection, for example shingles. In tests on rats it has also been found to accelerate wound healing where nerve damage has occurred."
ACV1 treats pain by blocking the transmission of pain along our peripheral nervous system - the nervous system that runs thro
Contact: Jason Major
University of Melbourne