Affiliation: Laboratory of Systems Approaches and Non Communicable Diseases, IRCCS "San Raffaele Pisana", Via di Valcannuta, 247, I-00166 Roma, Italia.
Chronic pain is a widespread healthcare problem affecting not only the patient but in many ways all the society. Chronic pain is a disease itself that endures for a long period of time and it is resistant to the majority of medical treatments that provide modest improvements in pain and minimum improvements in physical and emotional functioning. More co-existing chronic pain conditions may be present in the same individual (patient). The α 9α 10 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) may be a potential target in the pathophysiology of chronic pain, as well in the development of breast and lung cancers. α-conotoxins (α-CNT) are small peptides used offensively by carnivorous marine snails known as Conus that target nAChR. Among α-CNT there are potent and selective antagonists of α 9α 10 nAChR such as RgIA and Vc1.1 that produces both acute and long lasting analgesia. Moreover, these peptides accelerate the recovery of nerve function after injury, likely through immune/inflammatory-mediated mechanisms. We review the background, findings, implications and problems in using compounds that act on α 9α 10 nAChR.