A recent study, published in the journal Science Advances, has discovered a nano-drug which has been found to reduce pain in rodents.
This study, conducted by the team of researchers from Université Paris-Saclay and Université Paris Descartes, proposes that this nano-drug lasts longer and is also less addictive than opium-based drugs like morphine.
There is no doubt that morphine is an effective painkiller that is derived from the opium poppy. It works by acting on a brain receptor which reduces pains. But, its disadvantage is that it affects a different receptor which can lead to lethal breathing problems due to overdose.
The major problem of morphine-like any other opioid is that it can also be very addictive. This is a fact which is particularly challenging in the US where more than 115 people die every single day after overdosing on opioids.
Researchers found an alternative to morphine
Now, researchers have come up with an alternative which they say is far less addictive than morphine and other synthetic opioids are given to relieve pain. Moreover, the findings of a study suggest its pain-alleviating effects last longer than opiate equivalents.
Yet, the drug has only been tried in rodents so we will have to wait to check if the same can be said for human patients.
The science behind this painkiller depends on peptides. These peptides naturally occur in our body, such as enkephalin, which binds to opioid receptors.
The major advantage of nano-drug, in theory, is that they are less open to misuse than drugs such as morphine. This is because they target peripheral opioid receptors which are close to the location of the pain rather than the central opioid receptors in the brain.
But, in practice, they have not been approved because of several complications, counting problems crossing the blood-brain barrier.
To solve these problems, the researchers attached Leu-enkephalin (LENK) neuropeptides to a natural and biocompatible lipid named as squalene. This lipid could then be transported directly to the source of the pain through injection.
To test its efficiency and effectiveness as a painkiller, the research team directed three different versions of this new drug to rodents with swollen paws. Using real-time imaging, they then could detect different signs of reduced thermal sensitivity in the paws of rodents four hours later.
The final word
According to the researchers, the pain-relieving benefits of the nano-drug lasted longer than morphine. It’s all very promising but we see that this drug seems to work in rodents only. It must pass clinical trial before it can be prescribed by doctors, and even that could be a while off.
Researchers of the study report that, before starting its first phase clinical trial, it is essential to be able to prepare a clinical sample of these nanoparticles.
This comprises finding a way to sterilize these particles before intravenous injection and passing at least one more (non-rodent) animal study.