A new study published this month in the journal PAIN has identified a drug that selectively targets the melatonin MT2 receptor and provides relief of neuropathic pain in animal models. The authors state that this could open the way for development of a novel class of analgesics that could broaden the treatment armamentarium for patients with neuropathic pain. Given the limited treatment options presently available for neuropathic pain, and heavy reliance on opioids, the identification of new analgesics is of high interest
The melatonin MT2 receptor drug, UCM924, was found to activate the MT2 receptors in the periaqueductal grey (a brain area controlling pain), and is able to switch off the neurons that trigger pain and switch on the ones that turn off pain. Higher doses of UCM924 were also found effective in relieving insomnia, suggesting that MT2 receptor drugs could offer relief both to people who suffer from pain during the day, using low doses, and from insomnia at night, using higher doses. At least 50% to 70 of patients with neuropathic pain conditions complain of significant sleep disturbance.
Read a news story about the research findings here.