18 December 2006

Sea snail toxins for chronic pain

Snails offer hope for pain sufferers

The humble but lethal sea snail may hold the key to a better life for thousands of chronic pain sufferers.

Researchers from the University of Queensland believe conotoxins contained in potentially deadly sea snail venom could be used to create a treatment to replace conventional pain relief drugs such as morphine.

Dr Jenny Ekberg said her research had shown the conotoxin could produce pain relief without side effects in animals.

However, the conotoxin is yet to be tested on humans and Dr Ekberg said it could be several years before the treatment was able to be produced in marketable quantities.

"It's working beautifully at the moment, we just have to learn to synthesize it properly so that we can get enough amounts to start chemical trials on humans," she said.

Dr Ekberg said the lack of side effects meant the conotoxin had the potential to completely revolutionise pain treatment for cancer patients and chronic and neuropathic pain sufferers.

"Unlike other anaesthetics, it's very specific against the pain and doesn't cause any side effects - it's the first time anyone has discovered anything like this," she said.

Conventional medicines such as morphine can cause a range of unpleasant side effects, including nausea, vision and movement defects and drowsiness.

These symptoms often rendered sufferers unable to work and could lead to depression and, in some cases, suicide, Dr Ekberg said.

"I've met people with this, it's really horrible ... neuropathic pain, which is caused by damaged nerves, not tissue, you have to live with forever," she said.

If the research proves successful Dr Ekberg hopes the treatment will allow sufferers to live normal lives and continue working.

She believed the treatment would initially be administered through hospitals but hoped patients would eventually be able to inject it themselves at home.

© 2006 AAP


09 December 2006

What this is all about

Welcome to my pain for philosophers blog. Here's a bit about what you're looking at:

I'm a philosopher working on issues involving pain. That requires knowing quite a bit about what pains are. I thus try to keep up with the pain science literature, and created this blog to collect excerpts of articles relevant to philosophy of mind, philosophical psychology, cognitive science, value-theory, and applied ethics. I'm particularly keen on studies concerning the relationships between gender and pain; the role of depression, anxiety, and other affective disorders in pain; and the ways caregivers' attitudes influence their patients' pain and recovery.

After I started the site, I noticed that many of you find your way here from Google searches on pain and palliative medicine. And several websites geared toward pain patients and their families occasionally link here. Thus I've expanded my focus to include information about advances in pain care and in the understanding of common chronic pain conditions.

I hope you'll find this material helpful, if a bit technical. Please email me if you see something you'd like translated into English. Of course, I'm neither a doctor nor a lawyer, so I'm not offering anything here as medical or legal advice.

I'd greatly appreciate your bringing anything pain-related you may happen across to my attention. Also, if there is some topic or issue which especially interests you, please let me know. I'll try to do some digging.

You can email me at doloric@gmail.com


*You'll notice that posting here comes in fits and starts. I try to survey the journals at least once a month, but that unfortunately doesn't happen in extremely busy months. You might therefore find it useful to subscribe to the XML feed to be updated when I post.

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