Curses or Cures: A Review of the Numerous Benefits Versus the Biosecurity Concerns of Conotoxin Research

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Conotoxins form a diverse group of peptide toxins found in the venom of predatory marine cone snails. Decades of conotoxin research have provided numerous measurable scientific and societal benefits. These include their use as a drug, diagnostic agent, drug leads, and research tools in neuroscience, pharmacology, biochemistry, structural biology, and molecular evolution. Human envenomations by cone snails are rare but can be fatal. Death by envenomation is likely caused by a small set of toxins that induce muscle paralysis of the diaphragm, resulting in respiratory arrest. The potency of these toxins led to concerns regarding the potential development and use of conotoxins as biological weapons. To address this, various regulatory measures have been introduced that limit the use and access of conotoxins within the research community. Some of these regulations apply to all of the ≈200,000 conotoxins predicted to exist in nature of which less than 0.05% are estimated to have any significant toxicity in humans. In this review we provide an overview of the many benefits of conotoxin research, and contrast these to the perceived biosecurity concerns of conotoxins and research thereof.

Original languageEnglish
Article number235
Issue number8
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Biomedicine, Biosecurity, Cone snail, Conopeptide, Conotoxin, Drugs, Envenomations, Fatalities, Venom

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ID: 247983732