Want to know what substance could revolutionize pain management? The venom of a black mamba! A study published in this week's Nature showed that compounds isolated from black mamba venom are just as strong as morphine, but with less tolerance and no breathing problems.
Black mambas are widely regarded as one of — if not the most — deadly and dangerous snakes on the planet, and their bite has a 100% fatality rate if not treated. It's an agonizing death lasting somewhere between 30 minutes and a few hours — so how are we getting a potentially incredible new painkiller out of this?
The researchers have isolated a specific class of peptides dubbed mambalgins, that work on a totally different set of receptors to morphine, but are equally as effective. The mambalgins target the acid-sensing ion channels, or ASICs, which are thought to play a role in pain transmissions, but whose exact mechanism is poorly understood.
When tested on mice, the mambalgins were as effective as morphine, didn't cause the same respiratory surpression, and while after five days there was some tolerance, it was less than with opiates.
The researchers aren't sure why a black mamba would produce such a potent painkiller in addition to the legion of deadly substances in its bite, but it could provide a major breakthrough in new analgesics. Just don't go trying to get a bite just because you're in pain or anything.