Imagine if hundreds of millions of people around the world cried out in pain with a single voice. It would be terrifying. It would rock governments and nations. This is no fantasy. One in five people suffer from chronic pain. It is one of the most misdiagnosed and mistreated medical conditions and has only recently been recognized as a disease. At the Montreal Pain Summit, pain was declared a Human Rights issue.
Morphine is currently the most powerful drug for chronic pain-relief but it has severe negative side effects such as addiction, increased tolerance, repression of respiratory system, euphoria, and in many cases it is not strong enough to relieve chronic pain.
This is the story of the quest to develop powerful neuropathic drugs, without the negative side effects of Morphine. Despite all the medical advances of the past hundred years, nothing has yet replaced opioid-based drugs and their negative side effects. The human suffering is increasing: accidental deaths from prescribed opioids are now the most common form of accidental death in the USA.
We have all suffered pain, but chronic pain presents a complex set of problems that we don’t have answers for. Using cutting-edge CGI and medical imaging technology, we show what pain looks like and how it functions in the body through the neurological pathways. The use of data visualization shows the vast statistical dimensions of what is now recognised as a global pain epidemic.
Australia is renowned for its venomous and scary spiders, snakes and sea creatures, often just an arm’s length away from us in our daily lives. They are now delivering more surprises than a fatal bite. A new generation of therapeutics are being developed from this most unlikely source. Scientists are looking at highly complex animal and mollusc venom compounds in search of a magic bullet: a pain treatment to replace the addictive and dangerous opioids that are the last refuge for millions of pain-sufferers worldwide.
Animal venoms contain hundreds of compounds that can block certain channels in the nervous system (ion channels). The compounds have been proven to act differently to opioid-based painkillers, such as morphine and hydrocodone, as they do not cross the blood-brain barrier, with no risk of addiction or death from overdose. Eager to take part in human trials, unwilling to have to wait any longer, five chronic pain sufferers join Australian and international researchers exploring the new frontiers of molecular biology for these new treatments.
Instead of being passive patients we enable these sufferers to see the research and they find out what happens when deadly venoms, poisons, and toxins (and replica synthesized compounds) are used to combat chronic pain and tackle illnesses such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
We tell the stories of these five patients, willing to take risks to help find a cure without the current debilitating side effects. They take part in the latest discoveries and learn how pain operates in the body. They experience the new generation of therapeutics, through controlled trials, that are already revolutionising pain management.
The journey takes us from the coral reefs of the Philippines and Australia to medical research labs in Europe and North America.
The five interrelated stories demonstrate
what pain is (now recognized as a illness in itself). It is the most common symptom for which patients seek medical assistance.
how it operates in humans,
the danger of opioids, (the most common treatment), overdoses from misused opioids have caused more accidental deaths in the U.S. than road accidents, which were previously the most common cause of accidental death.
latest research into the cornocopeia of naturally occurring venoms (with elements that target specific pain pathways),
The different, ancient and highly evolved venomous creatures being studied include, Ticks, Frogs, Pufferfish, Sea Anemones, Snakes and Spiders.
human trials and potential for use in the treatment of other diseases such as Diabetes, Alzheimers, Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis..
Each personal story features a scientist/ medical expert and a patient in treatment or trials. To bring these stories together we film in the United States, Australia, Europe Canada, and The Philippines. The stories are connected, exploratory and engaging. They demonstrate in practical experiments and simulations what pain is, it’s role in evolution and biology and as pathology. Immersive CGI and imaging techniques reveal the invisible biology.
It’s a weird story featuring some of Australia’s most deadly insects, spiders and snakes, and some of the world’s brightest scientists. Taking our audience on this journey into the wild and deadly side of nature; showing the strategies of venomous creatures and our growing understanding of how they can benefit mankind is one of the great science stories of the century. Seeing the human side of the story, the pain, and the possibility of transformation, makes this complex science accessible, understandable and emotionally engaging.