Snails and slugs have proven to be a bothersome pest in gardens and devastating for farmers’ crops. However, a new study has revealed that snails might be more useful than previously thought. A specific species of snail could be the answer to the cure for some serious illnesses.
Researchers have discovered thousands of new peptide toxins in the venom of one type of the predatory cone snail, Conus episcopatus, which is found in Australia.
According to Discovery Magazine, cone snails are one of the most venomous animals on Earth. Certain species of the snail are able to kill an adult human within minutes. The cone snail venoms are made up of conotoxins, biologically active peptides that target neurons and muscles. Each Conus species has thousands of conotoxins, which employ unique combinations to paralyze their prey.
Scientists recently discovered that snails are able to produce and use different types of venoms for defense and attack. The different toxins are produced at different ends of the venom duct, allowing scientists to determine which toxins are used to defend, and which are used to attack prey.
Researchers are hoping to discover a way to develop new drugs to treat addiction and cancer from the venom, reports Tech Times.
Frank Mari, of Florida Atlantic University, said that the snail’s venom used to paralyze prey contains an “extraordinary cocktail of compounds with medicinal properties.”
A new study published in PNAS details a method in which researchers analyze the venom toxins’ structure using bioinformatics and biochemical tools. Using this method, scientists have discovered the highest number of peptides in the venom of just one cone snail.
Paul Alewood from the University of Queensland said that they “also discovered six original ‘frameworks'” which he claims “will support drug development in the near future.”
We also discovered six original ‘frameworks’ – 3D-shaped molecules suitable as drug leads – which we expect will support drug development in the near future.
The new method could help scientists to look for disease patterns and lead to the discovery of new drugs.
In other news, researchers have discovered new ways in which immunotherapy can be used to treat cancer.