Snail Toxin For Developing Drugs Against Neurological Disorders


Scientists have been able to isolate a “conotoxin”, a peptide from the venomous cone snail Conus omaria (photo) that seems to block the nicotine receptors in the brain. While the obvious application may be as a drug candidate to help patients to quit smoking, its discoverers say the toxin may also have other uses as a tool in developing drugs for other neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, and perhaps even schizophrenia.

McIntosh says the new toxin itself is unlikely to become a drug because it blocks rather than stimulates nicotinic receptors. But because it can act on some types of nicotinic receptors and not others – like a key that opens some locks but not others – it has great potential as a tool for precisely identifying the shape and structure of the receptor “locks,” thus making it easier to design new medicines or “keys” to fit those receptors and trigger them to release desired neurotransmitters.


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