Do Snails Hold the Key to Defeating Sleep Disorders?
The collective hope of curing sleep disorders could rest on the small, chiral shell of an Indian snail. While attempting to further understand the venom of conus araneosus, a species of marine cone snail found on the coast of Sri Lanka and southeast India, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science discovered a sleep-inducing compound hidden within the toxic mixture.
After isolating and sequencing 14 peptides within the venom, the researchers, along with scientists from India’s National Centre for Biological Sciences Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, examined five of them on mice. Only the isolated peptide ar3j had any effect. An initial dose caused the mice to fall asleep for two hours; when the dosage was bumped to 2 1/2 times the initial amount, the mice remained asleep for four to five hours.
“The mice also took longer to regain their activity to normal behavioural levels after this treatment, exhibiting that the peptide could induce variable periods of sleep at variable dosages,” reports the Bangalore Mirror.
This is not the first time the venom of the cone snail has been used for pharmaceutical purposes. Various compounds of the toxin, which all members of the carnivorous species release through a hypodermic-like barb, have been used in the treatment of everything from pain relief to Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers are now studying the ar3j’s s sleep-inducing effects more closely in hopes that it may one day become a drug for those suffering from nighttime disorders. Let’s hope they move faster than a snail’s pace.
h/t Van Winkle’s