22 November 2011
$400,000 grant for snail pain study
Marine cone snail venom might soon be used to help reduce chronic pain in Australia, thanks to a $400,000 research grant for RMIT University's School of Medical Sciences.
Dr Geza Berecki.
Researcher Dr Geza Berecki has just been awarded the Federal Government grant over three years to further his work in the field.
The grant has come from the National Health and Medical Research Council and follows reports that research in the area might soon produce non-addictive pain-killing drugs 1,000 times more powerful than morphine.
Dr Berecki said the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency had already approved the use of a cone snail venom peptide (conotoxin) for the management of chronic severe pain.
But current therapy with the peptide was limited mainly because of side-effects.
"The results of our research in the area of what we call conotoxins will generate new knowledge and have potential applications in therapeutic and diagnostic fields," Dr Berecki said.
"Clearly there is a need for new conotoxins, which may have potential for the treatment of pain, depression, anxiety, epilepsy and drug addiction with fewer side-effects.
"It is likely that the range of conotoxins capable of targeting receptors in our bodies is much more diverse that currently realised."
Dr Berecki said the research was significant because it sought to understand the interaction between conotoxins and the human body.
Professor David Adams, who heads the Health Innovations and Research Institute at RMIT, will assist Dr Berecki's project, as will Professor Steven Petrou from the University of Melbourne.
The work is being carried out in collaboration between the Health Innovations Research Institute, the University of Queensland (Dr Richard Clark) and the University of Melbourne (Dr Evan Thomas).