A compound initially isolated from a soft coral (Capnella imbricata) collected at Green Island off Taiwan, could lead scientists to develop a new set of treatments for neuropathic pain chronic pain that sometimes follows damage to the nervous system. Currently this form of pain is very poorly controlled by the usual analgesics (aspirin like drugs (NSAIDS) or even opioids like morphine) and novel treatments are urgently required. The conclusion of a paper published today in the British Journal of Pharmacology is that this new compound could be a candidate.
Recent research suggests inflammation in the nervous system is a major causative factor for this condition. Inflammation activates supporting cells, such as microglia and astrocytes, that surround the nerve cells. These activated cells release compounds called cytokines that can excite nerves carrying pain sensation (nociceptive pathways) and cause the person to experience mildly uncomfortable stimuli as very painful (hyperalgesia), or stimuli that would normally induce no discomfort at all as painful (allodynia). Thus, cold drafts or lightly brushing the skin can produce intense pain, severely affecting the person's quality of life.
The treatments that give some relief to some patients are a very mixed bunch, nearly all found empirically and with many other effects. Amitriptyline, an anti depressant now used for urinary incontinence, has given relief in neuropathic pain; similarly, two drugs designed for treating epilepsy - gabapentin and pentagabalin have also proved effective for some sufferers. However, many patients do not respond to these currently available drugs.
"New, effective and safe painkillers are urgently needed for patients with neuropathic pain," says Dr Zhi-Hong Wen, who played a key role in a research study searching for novel compounds that have potential for use in pain relief. Dr Wen and colleagues work at the Department of Marine Biotechnol
|Contact: Jennifer Beal|