The body relies on heat messengers to feel pain, and a team from San Antonio is using this discovery to develop a new, safer painkiller. While aspirin eases pain-inducing inflammation and the strongest pain therapies mask symptoms, the researchers say this new pathway can deliver meds that stop nerves from feeling pain, according to a Reuters report.
Nearly 50 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by disease or injury. With pain medication options largely limited to opioids such as morphine and aspirin-like drugs, some patients become addicted or dependent upon these drugs, or suffer side effects such as kidney or liver damage.
But research led by Dr. Kenneth Hargreaves of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio could bring about a change. The team has developed approaches that have the potential to block pain at its source, unlike opioid narcotics that travel to the brain and affect the central nervous system.
"For the first time we have the opportunity to try to block pain at its source," Hargreaves tells Reuters. "The capsaicin receptor is like the master lock in our pain neurons. We have mice now with a genetic deletion of this master lock. Those without it show almost no pain from inflammation or cancer or burn injuries, so that we know that this receptor is critically important in terms of how the body responds to injury."
Hargreaves and his team have filed for a patent application on a pill and antibody that work to block pain.
- read the UT Health Science Center's release
- here's the story from Reuters
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