Anne Baron from the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology in Valbonne, France, and her colleagues, hunted through hundreds of compounds for one that blocks acid-sensing ion channels in nerves.
These are key in a common pain pathway. The victorious compound turned out to be venom from the black mamba, New Scientist reported.
Baron’s team then identified the proteins in the venom that blocked the ion channels, before naming them mambalgins and purifying them to produce a drug.
A black mamba at night
Mice injected with the drug appeared to be significantly more resilient to pain as compared to those given a sham treatment.
The researchers found that the drug did not affect the opioid receptors that are targeted by morphine but was just as effective in relieving pain.
According to Baron, anyone taking the new drug might therefore avoid side effects associated with morphine, which include addiction and breathing problems.
The study has been published in Nature.