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October 6 2012

Snake Venom Contains Potent Painkiller

The black mamba is one of the world's most venomous snakes—its bite can kill a human in just half an hour. But along with deadly neurotoxins, the black mamba's venom has a special ingredient: a painkiller as potent as morphine. So says a study in the journal Nature.

Researchers isolated proteins from mamba venom called mambalgins, and injected them into mice. Then they tested how long it took those mice to yank their paws out of water heated to a painful—but not damaging—115 degrees Fahrenheit. Turns out mice treated with mambalgins could take the heat for just as long as mice dosed with morphine, indicating the two drugs had similar pain-relieving effects.

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