Cone Shells-Medical Uses

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If you happen to come in contact with cone shell venom, it could easily kill you, but compounds extracted from the same venom could save your life. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“With a snake, you may cause respiratory suppression, where in a cone shell, he will have toxins that stop your respiratory process, stop your heart, stop your nerve functioning, basically stop everything.”

Jon Paul Bingham is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Clarkson University. He says that cone shells use their venom to immobilize their prey. And it’s the potency of the venom and its complex chemical structure that has led to its use in a wide range of new drugs.

“The use of cone shells as medical tools is becoming a very important issue. We have a number of drug companies who have demonstrated the use of a conotoxin in controlling pain. Now pain control is a very important process in trying to enable people to function normally as possible. One of the conotoxins that have been studied have demonstrated that they really do inhibit the pain process. This particular toxin as a pain medication is going through its final stages in FDA trials. It’s delivered by a very small pump. This little pump is usually fitted onto your belt and has a small catheter that goes into the spinal cord. So what it does is it controls the nerve impulses from the pain area, which is not effectively managed by the normal pain drugs. This little toxin from the snail, can actually inhibit this pain process. And one of the remarkable things about this particular toxin is that it has no addiction or tolerance.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Cone Shells-Medical Uses

Some of the deadliest venoms on the planet are being to create life-saving drugs.
Air Date:06/28/2005
Scientist:
Transcript:

music

If you happen to come in contact with cone shell venom, it could easily kill you, but compounds extracted from the same venom could save your life. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"With a snake, you may cause respiratory suppression, where in a cone shell, he will have toxins that stop your respiratory process, stop your heart, stop your nerve functioning, basically stop everything."

Jon Paul Bingham is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Clarkson University. He says that cone shells use their venom to immobilize their prey. And it's the potency of the venom and its complex chemical structure that has led to its use in a wide range of new drugs.

"The use of cone shells as medical tools is becoming a very important issue. We have a number of drug companies who have demonstrated the use of a conotoxin in controlling pain. Now pain control is a very important process in trying to enable people to function normally as possible. One of the conotoxins that have been studied have demonstrated that they really do inhibit the pain process. This particular toxin as a pain medication is going through its final stages in FDA trials. It's delivered by a very small pump. This little pump is usually fitted onto your belt and has a small catheter that goes into the spinal cord. So what it does is it controls the nerve impulses from the pain area, which is not effectively managed by the normal pain drugs. This little toxin from the snail, can actually inhibit this pain process. And one of the remarkable things about this particular toxin is that it has no addiction or tolerance."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music