My Huynh, University of Utah
The University of Utah has received a $10 million grant from the Department of Defense to study the numbing venoms produced by various mollusks, like the ones pictured, for their potential to neutralize pain.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Department of Defense has committed approximately $10 million toward research by University of Utah Health into whether the numbing venom of some ocean species could be used as an alternative to opioids in treating pain.
The grant, announced by the university last week, is expected to be distributed over four years to help researchers find out whether substances in the venom of any of hundreds of different marine mollusks, such as snails and slugs, have potential as an effective remedy for pain.
“Each has a couple hundred different components (in their venom),” said Dr. J. Michael McIntosh, a professor of psychiatry at the U. and one of the principal investigators with the project. “We’re really just beginning to figure out how many are in (the venom). There are probably thousands. Which are of interest remains to be determined.”
McIntosh, who is also a clinical psychiatrist at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake, said the mollusk species in question will be collected by local divers off the coast of the Philippines.
“Then either the products from the snails or the snails themselves are shipped to us for examination,” he said.
Earlier this year, McIntosh and several other U. scientists published research suggesting there were encouraging properties of the venom produced by a small marine cone snail called Conus regius, saying it appeared not only to neutralize pain in rodents but also provide increased protection against the worsening of chronic pain.
“It not only seems to reduce the symptoms of pain, kind of mask the pain if you will, but there also seems to be some sort of disease-modifying (features),” he said, that “not only treat the pain but treat the pathophysiology.”
In other words, there are signs indicating that particular venom helps nerves which react negatively to pain to recover “more…