Australian scientists have found that the toxins in the venom of the cone snail Conus episcopatus could help in creating new drugs which can treat cancer.

This marine predator releases poison, one of the strongest in the world, in order to paralyze its prey.

Thanks to a new method of analysis, based on biochemistry and bioinformatics, the researchers from the University of Queensland were able to identify six new proteins that contain peptides which have stunning effects, some of which are already used in the manufacture of medicines, according to a study published in the Annals of the American Academy of Sciences ( PNAS ) .

“We hope these newly discovered structures will lead to the production of new drugs to relieve pain and to treat cancer and other diseases,” said study co-author Professor Paul Alvud .

A year ago, at the annual conference of the American Chemical Society (ACS ), Australian researchers presented a study about another cone snail , Conidae , who lives in the Pacific Ocean and has a protein whose analgesic effect  is 100 times stronger than morphine .

“The venom of sea snails consists of a number of powerful chemical compounds which have been underestimated so far.” said Alvul.

There are at least 700 known species of marine snails worldwide.

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