Neuropathic pain: The sea provides a new hope of relief

August 5, 2009,

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 . 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 , 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 Biotechnology and Resources, National Sun Yat-Sen University, Taiwan.

Although the chemical they studied, capnellene, was originally isolated in 1974, it is only recently that scientists have started to appreciate its potential. Capnellene is interesting because its structure is very different from pain-relieving drugs currently in use. Initial experiments suggested that it may have pain-relieving properties. Working with Yen-Hsuan Jean MD, PhD and other colleagues, Dr Wen tested capnellene and a second very similar compound, in isolated microglial cells and in experimental models of the condition in rats.

They found that the compounds significantly reduced pain-related activities in isolated , and that these compounds also significantly reversed hyperalgesic behaviour in the experimental rats.

"To provide better quality of life, we need new drugs that can act rapidly and have specific functions with low side effects. Moreover, we need better management for chronic pain conditions," says Dr Wen.

"Today there are few pharmacological agents that can help people suffering from neuropathic , but we believe that these marine-derived compounds could lead to the development of a new range of drugs of great potential," he adds.

Source: Wiley (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Fabric imbued with optical fibers helps fight skin diseases

February 23, 2018
A team of researchers with Texinov Medical Textiles in France has announced that their PHOS-ISTOS system, called the Fluxmedicare, is on track to be made commercially available later this year. The system consists of a piece ...

DNA gets away: Scientists catch the rogue molecule that can trigger autoimmunity

February 22, 2018
A research team has discovered the process - and filmed the actual moment - that can change the body's response to a dying cell. Importantly, what they call the 'Great Escape' moment may one day prove to be the crucial trigger ...

Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury

February 22, 2018
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Fertility breakthrough: New research could extend egg health with age

February 22, 2018
Women have been told for years that if they don't have children before their mid-30s, they may not be able to. But a new study from Princeton University's Coleen Murphy has identified a drug that extends egg viability in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.