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A new target for painkillers

Intosh co-authored the study with two colleagues in the University of Utah Center for Neuropeptide Pharmacology ?Baldomero "Toto" Olivera, a distinguished professor of biology, and Michael Ellison, a postdoctoral fellow in biology ?and with Michelle Vincler, Shannon Wittenauer and Renee Parker at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

A Pain in the Nerves

The study dealt with what is known as neuropathic pain, which is chronic pain due to injury to the nerves, spinal cord or brain.

Such pain can result from diabetes damage to nerves in the feet or elsewhere, spinal injury, degenerative disc disease, alcoholism, failed low-back surgery, tumors compressing nerves, spinal tumors, repetitive motion disorders, multiple sclerosis, infection, stroke, traumatic brain injury, shingles, nerve toxins and electrical or other damage to peripheral nerves. Sometimes, doctors are unable to find a cause.

Symptoms can include numbness and pain that feels like constant burning, "pins and needles," sharp shooting pain, electricity or electrical shock, or tingling. People with neuropathic pain often are hypersensitive to previously innocuous stimuli ?for example, feeling pain from a foot rubbing against the inside of a shoe ?and feel an exaggerated response to things that are painful.

Common pain medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen often fail to relieve neuropathic pain. Morphine-like opiods such as oxycodone sometimes are used, but can cause constipation, nausea and a spaced-out feeling.

Anticonvulsant drugs for epilepsy sometime are used to reduce the pain by decreasing nerve cell excitability, but have side effects such as lethargy, fatigue, clouding of mental state and weight gain, McIntosh says. Antidepressants and muscle relaxants have been used, but they can cause weight gain, nausea and sexual dys
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Source:University of Utah


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