Painkillers can be quickly made from pufferfish venom
LONDON: A poison found in a self-fertilizing pufferfish in the deep sea has revealed that it could lead to a new batch of painkillers.
Pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a highly potent neurotoxin. It is used in medical research, but now it is known that this toxic compound may help in the development of new pain-relieving drugs.
Research by scientists suggests that tetrodotoxin or TTX is common in pufferfish as well as sea snails. It blocks the sodium ion channels in the nervous system that transmit pain signals, and a few milligrams can kill a victim within minutes, even if they are moribund. And for that reason they are also the subject of research.
But more research and synthesis of TTX is needed to make better painkillers today if not tomorrow. For this, scientists have developed a 22-step method that paves the way for making TTX in the laboratory.