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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a very dangerous disease, affecting the central nervous system. It can lead to weak muscles, difficulties with speech and vision, depression, ataxia, overheating, pain and perhaps eventually death. It is caused by the breakdown of the myelin sheath – a fatty layer covering nerves and ensuring optimal transfer of signals - in the spinal cord and brain. This breakdown eventually leads to an inhibition of signal transfer in the nerves. At present, scientists think that the myelin sheath is broken down by the attack of the patient’s own immune cells. That is why MS is considered an auto-immune disorder nowadays. However, opinions on this matter are somewhat conflicting. The venom of the Asian monocled cobra (Naja kaouthia) is now being examined as a potential medicine to treat MS, as it seems that the venom blocks the attack of immune cells against the myelin sheath. This examination is currently in phase II of the drug discovery process.
There is a venom component that is 2700 times more powerful than morphine, without the additional side-effects . Currently this component is being evaluated as a potential new painkiller. It was isolated from the venom of the largest venomous snake in the world, the beautiful King Cobra, Ophiophagus hannah. The goal is to make an oral drug out of it. Currently, this component is in phase II of the drug discovery process.