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Surprising Science

Possible Morphine Alternative Found In Black Mamba Venom

Two proteins found in the deadly snake's venom kept mice pain-free longer, raising hopes for a medication that manages pain with fewer side effects.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A study published Wednesday described the results of tests done on mice using two proteins found in the venom of the black mamba snake. These proteins — which have been given the name “mambalgins” — allowed the mice to withstand pain longer while maintaining a normal breathing rate. These results suggest that a painkiller created from these proteins might be a promising alternative to morphine. It wouldn’t be the first of its kind: “At least one other venom-based painkiller is already available commercially: Prialt (ziconotide), which mimics the venom of the cone snail.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Morphine has been the hospital opiate of choice for many years, but the side effects that come with its use led scientists to search for better, safer alternatives. Although it will take quite a lot more testing to get a mambalgin-based drug on the market, researchers are excited by the developments: “There’s been very few new drugs to come out to treat pain in the last 10–15 years, and very few new modes of action…It’s nice they’ve gone the extra mile to show that the side effects there are with opiates like morphine aren’t there.

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