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An Opioid Alternative? Another Step Toward a New Molecule

Study Reports More Analgesia, Less Addiction Potential

New research conducted by a team from Université Paris-Saclay and Université Paris Descartes may represent another advance toward the quest for a new molecule that provides analgesia without addiction. The team’s work centers on naturally occurring peptides such as enkephalin that bind to opioid receptors. By adhering Leu-enkephalin neuropeptides to a lipid called squalene, a nano-drug (LENK-SQ) was developed that avoids the issue of blood-brain barrier impermeability and can be introduced directly to the site of pain. The new drug was tested on mouse models, with results reported earlier this month in the journal Science Advances.

In the study, mice with swollen and painful paws were injected with the new nano-drug and were compared to a second group of similar rodents treated with morphine. Heat was applied to the site to test reaction to pain. In comparison to the morphine cohort, the LENK-SQ group showed greater and longer lasting evidence of pain reduction. Because there is no interaction with the brain, the researchers believe there is also no addition potential. The authors conclude that “Although further studies are needed to more precisely determine how dosage, administration frequency, and timing of treatment with LENK-SQ may affect the clinical outcome, this study opens a new exciting perspective for an efficient treatment of intense pain, which evades the severe side effects associated with morphine or related synthetic opioids.”

Read about the findings.

The journal article may be read here.

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