Pain is a vital sensation. Stimulants like heat, cold, pressure, or chemicals activate sensory nerves in our skin, tissues, and organs. The fibers of these nerves reach the central nervous system and activating neurons in the part of the brain known as the cerebral cortex create the conscious perception of pain and subsequently, a quick response occurs.
Morphine, which is one of the most powerful painkillers derived from the opium poppy with pharmacological and medical applications since 1817.
Enkephalin is peptides released from some of our nerve cells, positioned in key places on the path along which pain signals travel. When enkephalins attach to opioid receptors, block the pain signals from reaching the brain.
Morphine and synthetic opioids, such as codeine and fentanyl mimics these naturally-occurring mechanism and block the pain by binding to opioid receptors located on neurons in the spine and inhibiting their activity.
Researchers at Institut Pasteur International in Paris, France discovered a peptide in human saliva named opiorphin. Studies show Opiorphin prevents enkephalins from being broken down.
This results in an increase in the amount of enkephalin which is the body’s natural painkiller hence blocking pain signals. Actually sensing pain, enkephalins are released and opiorphin boosts their action.
Opiorphin seems to work on both chemical and physical induced pains. When it was given to rats that had been given a pain-inducing chemical, reduced acute pain.
The rats also exhibited diminished pain responses, when they walked across a pin-covered surface. It has been discovered that the effects of this new painkiller is up to six times more potent than morphine in rats.
Opiorphin could be a new generation of natural painkillers that relieve pain without the addictive and psychologically observed side effects of the traditional drug.
Researchers at Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, with Stragen company, Stragen, produced a product called STR-324 is a modified version of opiorphih designed in the aim to increase its stability.