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Compound for chronic pain treatment without side effects

The discovery, by neuroscientists, could pave the way for a new therapeutic compound to be developed that could be made available to patients. The discovery about the brain and the receptors was made by a group led by Indiana University neuroscientist Andrea Hohmann.

The research found that a compound that modulates the activity of the brain’s receptors for tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive substance in cannabis) endocannabinoids (natural pain-relieving compounds released by the brain) resulted in a lower level of chronic pain in mice.

The compound used falls in the group of substances called positive allosteric modulators. The compound binds to a cannabinoid receptor in the brain called CB1. The animal trials looked specifically at neuropathic pain, which is caused by nerve damage. Pain was assessed by studying the paw of the test mice using mechanical and thermometric measures to indicate the degree of hypersensitivity. When the brain was affected by the test compound the pain responses reduced.

The inference from the research is that the brain’s cannabis receptors may be used to treat chronic pain. Here it would be possible to produce the same therapeutic benefits as opioid-based pain relievers, yet without the side effects. Side effects include addiction or increased tolerance over time (the latter meaning that users need to increase the does to achieve the same effect).

The research could also, potentially, impact on a vast number of people given the number of chronic pain sufferers and the sales of opioids based medications. There has also been an increase in deaths from prescription overdoses related to opioids.

One researcher, working for Dr. Hohmann, called Richard Slivicki noted in a research brief: “The fact that deaths associated with prescription opioid abuse have surpassed cocaine and heroin overdose deaths combined is a significant factor in exploring cannabinoids as an alternative treatment for pain.”

The new finding has been presented to the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, which took place in November 2016. The findings have yet to be reported to a peer review journal.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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