The black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepsis) is one of the world’s most poisonous snakes. Its venom contains neurotoxins and cardiotoxins which can lead to a very rapid death.
According to French researchers, this venom is also a source of potent painkillers. Sylvie Diochiot, Institut de Pharmacologie Moleculaire et Cellulaire, Valbonne, and colleagues, isolated two isopeptides belonging to the family of three-finger toxins from the reptile’s poison. The scientists called these proteins mambalgins and demonstrated that they potently, rapidly, and reversibly inhibit acid-sensing ion channels, neuronal proteins implicated in pain transmission. By targeting these channels, mambalgins effectively killed acute and inflammatory pains. The analgesic effects were as strong as the ones induced by morphine; however, compared with morphine, mambalgins induced less tolerance and respiratory problems. Moreover, as contrary to other three-finger toxins, mambalgins did not detrimentally act on the motor system.
These peptides may, therefore, have important therapeutic applications.
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