The Cone Snail is an Amazing Creature

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After over two decades of research, a Filipino scientist has revealed that the Cone Snail, a fascinating sea creature, may possess the answer to numerous life-threatening diseases. Despite its small size, measuring less than 9 inches long, this deadly yet visually striking multicolored snail could potentially contain remedies for numerous excruciating and incapacitating ailments. With extensive research and countless hours dedicated to studying this creature, it appears that the venom of the Cone Snail holds tremendous potential for addressing some of the world’s most severe medical conditions.

Cone Snail Venom, a previously unexpected medical breakthrough, is now being used for chronic pain relief in patients who do not find relief from conventional medications. Dr. Baldomero Olivera, who had a deep fascination with these snails since his childhood in the Philippines, made this discovery after graduating from Sanford University and returning to his home country.

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After his return, he delved into researching the Cone Snail, driven by a deep curiosity about its deadly impact on humans. His research uncovered that the snail’s venom contains over 100 distinct toxins, contributing to its lethality. Olivera later secured a professorship at the University of Utah in the United States and resumed his research with a group of scientists. They extracted the venom from snails inhabiting the tropical reefs of Philippine waters, meticulously analyzing each constituent.

Dr. Olivera and his team conducted experiments with lab rats to test various toxins, noting that each toxin in the venomous mixture caused a different reaction in the rats. These discoveries caused a major impact in the medical field. Dr. Olivera decided to name his findings using his native language, Filipino. One of the components, which made a lab mouse fall asleep, was named “Conantukin” and is now used to treat epilepsy. Another component, which caused a mouse to experience a sudden bout of movement, was named “Contulakin” and is used to treat incurable pain. Throughout his years of research, Dr. Olivera also found that Cone Snail venom is highly dangerous but can also act as an antidote against itself. If stung by the snail, this venom could be 1,000 times more potent than a lethal dose of Morphine. With over 100 different components in a single Cone Snail venom, each toxin presents the potential for a new drug. According to National Geographic News (2009), scientists have studied less than one percent of these toxins.

While these creatures have the potential to provide cures for our most dangerous diseases, collecting venom from a Cone Snail can be disastrous. Some scientists opt to extract the venom by “milking” the snails, employing a method akin to obtaining venom from a snake. Nevertheless, this extraction technique can be highly hazardous and potentially lethal if not executed properly. Jon-Paul Bingham, a biochemist at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York and part of Olivera’s research team, is the leading scientist in Cone Snail milking.

According to Bingham (Philippine News, 2007), the Cone Snail is at risk of extinction due to the loss of coral reefs in warm tropical waters, which serve as their natural habitat. Without these reefs, the snail population is rapidly decreasing. Eric Chivian, a member of Olivera’s team and the founder and director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University, reports that 26% of coral reefs are beyond repair and 30-50% are in poor condition (Washington Post, 2004).

“Milk” harvesting the Cone Snail allows scientists to use fewer snails for research purposes while keeping them alive. Some scientists choose to dissect dead snails found on shores or floating in the water to extract venom for their studies. They remove the venom bulb’s harpoon-like needle and cut into the venom duct. To offset the declining snail population, many researchers raise snails themselves for research purposes. Thanks to these studies, scientists have discovered the next generation of pain relief.

Prialt, known as Primary Alternative to Morphine, is a medication made from the venom of Cone Snail. It was created after over twenty years of research and is one of several new medications derived from this source. On December 28th, 2004, it received FDA approval in the United States. However, due to toxins that can harm vital organs like the heart, Prialt cannot be taken by mouth. Instead, it must be injected into the spinal canal’s fluid using a pain pump. This approach enables Prialt to reach the brain directly without impacting internal organs.

Prialt, a medication without addictive properties, does not cause dependencies. It is crucial to administer the correct dosage of Prialt to avoid severe side effects. These adverse reactions include memory issues, double vision, fever, headaches, chills, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, seizures, light sensitivity, depression, and hallucinations. Less severe side effects consist of diarrhea, constipation, reduced appetite, stomach pain balance problems,and decreased urine output. Although initially bothersome these side effects are expected to diminish over time.

Individuals who have a family history of mental or psychological issues should avoid taking this medication. The primary objective of this drug is to provide relief for patients suffering from persistent and intense pain that does not respond to conventional painkillers. This category encompasses individuals with ailments such as cancer, AIDS, CRPS/RSD, and other nerve-related diseases. It is advised to view this medicine as a last resort due to its potent nature. Elan Corp., an Irish company responsible for manufacturing this medication, maintains optimism regarding changing public perception on its usage.

However, according to Robert Myer, Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Evaluation II, Prialt may not gain widespread recognition in the pharmaceutical industry (Food and Drug Administration, 2004). Meanwhile, Lars Ekman, Elan’s President of Global Research, mentioned in the Washington Post (2004) that this drug could potentially benefit up to 100,000 individuals in the U.S. This drug represents a significant breakthrough in the medical field. While the pill version of the medication did not receive FDA approval, the injectable form did. The pill formulation of Prialt is deemed too risky for use.

According to Elan Corporation’s research, it was found that the pill posed a potential risk to rats, suggesting a similar impact on humans. Despite this, the corporation maintains optimism about developing a secure alternative in the coming times. It is crucial for individuals to consult their doctor concerning all medications they consume, whether they are prescribed or over-the-counter drugs. Mixing Prialt with sedatives like sleeping pills, cold and allergy medicines, narcotics, muscle relaxants, or medications for depression, anxiety, or seizures can amplify its potency.

It is vital to inform the doctor about any use of diuretics such as Lasik or Furosemide. Additionally, disclosing the usage of over-the-counter (OTC) medications, including vitamins, herbal supplements, and sleep-aids, is crucial as they may interact with Prialt. Individuals must always notify any healthcare professional they consult about their Prialt usage for safety and health concerns. Before administering Prialt, patients need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation conducted by a licensed psychiatrist as required by the FDA to ensure their well-being and health.

Cone Snail Venom is a specialized medication that may not be suitable for all individuals. However, when administered to appropriate patients, it can restore mobility and enable them to lead a normal life. Thanks to the dedication and extensive research by scientists, this captivating creature has paved the way for a revolutionary development in pain management. Despite its potentially lethal sting, the remarkable Cone Snail possesses invaluable insights into combating various human ailments. With its wealth of hidden knowledge, this mesmerizing snail has the potential to revolutionize the scientific community.


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  2. Retrieved from http://www. fda. gov/ Kaufman, M. (2004, December 29).
  3. New Drug Is Approved To Treat Chronic Pain. Retrieved from http://washingtonpost. com Kaufman, M. (2004, December 29).
  4. Sea Snail venom paves way for potent new painkiller.
  5. Retrieved from http://washingtonpost. com Roach, J. (July 14, 2005).
  6. Toxic Snail Venoms Yielding New Painkillers, Drugs.
  7. National Geographic New. Retrieved from http://news. nationalgeographic. com/news/2005/06/0614_050614_snaildrugs. html

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