Researchers have discovered a non-opioid compound that, in mice, effectively reduced the pain hypersensitivity associated with chronic and often debilitating nerve pain caused by diabetes or chemotherapy drugs. It's opened the door to developing a drug to treat the condition for which existing painkillers do little.
Diabetes, chemotherapy drugs, multiple sclerosis, injuries and amputations have all been associated with neuropathic pain, usually caused by damage to nerves in various body tissues, including the skin, muscles and joints. Mechanical hypersensitivity – or mechanical allodynia – is a major symptom of neuropathic pain, where innocuous stimuli like light touch cause severe pain.
Many available pain medications aren't effective in reducing this often-debilitating type of chronic pain. However, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), in collaboration with UT Dallas and the University of Miami, may have advanced the treatment of neuropathic pain by discovering a molecule that reduces mechanical hypersensitivity in mice.
"We found it to be an effective painkiller, and the effects were rather long-lived," said Stephen Martin, a co-corresponding author of the study. "When we tested it on different models, diabetic neuropathy and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, for example, we found this compound has an incredible beneficial effect."
[...] "It's our goal to make this compound into a drug that can be used to treat chronic pain without the dangers of opioids," Martin said. "Neuropathic pain is often a debilitating condition that can affect people their entire lives, and we need a treatment that is well tolerated and effective."
Muhammad Saad Yousuf, et al., Highly specific σ2R/TMEM97 ligand FEM-1689 alleviates neuropathic pain and inhibits the integrated stress response, PNAS, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2306090120