Scientists at the Templar University for Science & Technology have revealed that they believe the venom of a specific snake may be a key to treating patients with chronic pain ailments, particularly arthritis.

The type of snake, the West Sanctarian Grass Adder, excretes an anaesthetic agent along with its venom which relieves pain, but doesn’t numb. “What this means,” Dr. Roderic Hammond, the principal investigator explained, “is that if we can extract this anaesthetic agent, we can relieve pain without drugs, and without losing the feeling in a particular body part.” Dr. Hammond further went on to explain that this could be revolutionary for, not just patients with ailments like arthritis, but even local or dental surgery.

Dr. Hammond and his team, who have spent the past 2 years working on the project, recently got the go ahead to test on live rats. The paper they published this week describes how they isolated the anaesthetic agent and tested it on aged lab rats with vet-diagnosed arthritis. “We wanted to be as ethical as possible about this. No animal was harmed in our experiments.”

The irony of snake venom being used to make the lives of rats easier was not lost on the research team, but Dr. Hammond said the team’s eventual aim is to get it approved for limited testing on humans. “If we can get this to a clinical trial setting, we would have a much better chance of determining if this is something that can really revolutionise medicine and anesthesiology.”

Ricardo Cava
Science & Technology Correspondent