Unfortunately, pretty much every human being with access to medical care has taken some sort of painkillers at some point – unfortunately because of the reason; but painkillers don’t make the pain signal go away. What happens is the signal still goes to the brain, but the opiates such as morphine alter the way the brain “understands” it, and as a side effect, also alter the patient’s judgement, and also can lead to addiction. However, this new type of painkiller that is being developed by researchers from the Stony Brook University works in a totally different way, and so far, it showed absolutely no side effects or addictive qualities.
This offers a major paradigm shift in the control of pain,” declares Dr. Simon Halegoua, Professor of Neurobiology & Behavior at Stony Brook
During the 1990s, the professor teamed up with Dr. Gail Mandel and Dr. Paul Brehm to identify a novel sodium ion channel involved in the transmission of pain. Basically, they were trying to find the “wire” that transmits the pain signal to the brain and find a way to “cut” it.
“When a patient is given an opiate like morphine, pain signals are still transmitted from sensory nerves to the central nervous system. Morphine action throughout the brain reduces and alters pain perception, but it also impairs judgement and results in drug dependence,” explains Halegoua, also director of the Center for Nervous System Disorders at Stony Brook University. “With drugs targeting the PN1/Nav1.7 sodium ion channel, the pain signals would not be transmitted, even by the sensory nerves. And since the central nervous system is taken out of the equation, there would be no side effects and no addictive qualities.”
Of course the benefits for such a painkiller would be absolutely huge, bringing the elimination of pain to people suffering from a number of diseases, from cancer or arthritis, to migraines or burns. It is still yet in clinical trials, but the odds are in just a year or two, it will hit the market – it will be interesting to see what pharmaceutical companies will do with other painkillers when this one comes out.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!