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Chilli pepper link to pain relief

27th April 2010

Discovering the body's "heat messenger," which helps people's nerves sense pain, will help researchers develop a safer class of painkillers, according to recent US research.

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The researchers found that the body uses compounds very similar to the heat-inducing molecule found in chilli peppers.

They also found several biochemical routes to block the body's sense of its own heat, routes which will make way for a promising new class of painkillers that is bound to have far fewer side-effects than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), salicylates, and opioids.

The finding also paves the way for a much simpler approach to the treatment of pain.

Instead of using chemicals and compounds for which damping pain is one of many different effects upon the body, some unintended, the finding paves the way for medicines that simply block pain reception.

Most of the analgesics in current use, such as narcotics or morphine, merely mask pain.

NSAIDs can ease inflammation and are widely used, but they have many side effects including hearing loss, gastrointestinal irritation leading to fatal ulcer perforation, light sensitivity, hypertension, and moderate to severe drug interactions.

Aspirin, a salicylate, can cause heart problems, and paracetamol (acetaminophen) can cause liver damage.

Study leader Kenneth Hargreaves of The University of Texas Health Science Centre at San Antonio said that, for the first time, people will have the opportunity to block the reception of pain at its source.

He said that his next study would involve a pill that used one of the compounds his team had identified as a possible painkiller, or engineered proteins from the immune system.

The immune system proteins, also known as monoclonal antibodies (MaB), are used in all medicines that end with the suffix "mab."

MaB are the product a relatively new technique that involves sophisticated biochemical reactions and antibodies engineered to protect the body against a specific substance or disease.

In the case of the newly proposed medicine, a monoclonal antibody would have to be engineered to selectively remove the heat receptors being examined by the research team.

Hargreaves said that the finding should lead to a general class of painkillers that will work for any kind of inflammatory pain, whether it be due to cancer, arthritis, or injury.

The researchers said that they proceeded by first looking for pain's basic cause, then narrowing it down to the capsaicin receptor, which is activated when people eat chilli peppers.

Hargreaves said that the capsaicin receptor was like the master lock in people's pain neurons, and that his team had managed to genetically engineer mice without the master lock.

He said that such mice showed almost no pain from cancer, inflammation, or burn injuries, and showed the team the importance of the capsaicin receptor.

The "keyhole" to the master lock is called transient potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1).

Heat does not directly activate pain neurons, but cells create their own natural capsaicins, known as oxidized linoleic acid metabolites (OLAMs).

The University of Texas has lodged a patent application for both a pill and an antibody that would treat pain using the "master lock and keyhole" mentioned in the current study.

Hargreaves said that his team did not use databases or modern drug design methods to make its discovery, but that they simply got lucky, and that his findings would offer physicians, dentists and patients more options in prescription pain medications.

He said that the finding would also help circumvent painkiller addiction and dependency, thereby benefiting people who suffered from chronic pain.

 

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Article Information

Title: Chilli pepper link to pain relief
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 14717
Date Added: 27th Apr 2010

Sources

BBC News

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