A safer, more effective morphine may be possible with IU discovery

March 24, 2011

An orphan drug originally used for HIV treatment has been found to short-circuit the process that results in additional sensitivity and pain from opioid use. The study by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine is reported in the March 25, 2011 issue of Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

The researchers say the finding in animal models may ultimately make a safer and more effective drug.

Traditionally opioids were used to relieve pain following surgery, from cancer and at the end of life. Today opioids are used widely for chronically painful conditions like osteoarthritis and back pain and may need to be prescribed for decades.

Morphine, the gold standard for controlling moderate to severe pain, has debilitating side effects including reduced respiration, constipation, itching and addiction. Patients also develop a tolerance to morphine which can lead to a complicated spiral.

"In addition to the recognized side effects, morphine actually creates sensitivity and causes more pain through inducing an in the body," said first author Natalie Wilson, a National Science Foundation Fellow at the IU School of Medicine.

This increased sensitivity is clinically known as opioid-induced (OIH). Frequently, patients receiving opioids for pain control may actually become more sensitive to certain painful stimuli necessitating an increased opioid dosage. OIH may also represent one of many reasons for declining levels of while receiving opioids or a worsening pain syndrome.

"The drug itself is producing its own new pain," said Fletcher A. White, Ph.D., Vergil K. Stoelting Professor of Anesthesia and director of Anesthesia Research at the IU School of Medicine. "I tend to view it as an injury as it appears to be creating another pain."

Dr. White explained that morphine sets into motion a cascade of events, one of which is to increase molecular communication to and from the nerves by a protein known as CXCR4. This increase in CXCR4 signaling contributes to a neuroinflammatory response causing increased sensitivity and additional pain.

Drs. Wilson and White and colleagues administered AMD3100, an orphan drug known to block the CXCR4 response, to rats. By halting the signaling process, the researchers interrupted the OIH response, Dr. White explained. "If this translates appropriately in people, this application would likely make morphine a safer, more effective drug for chronic control."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Gene therapy improves immunity in babies with 'bubble boy' disease

December 9, 2017
Early evidence suggests that gene therapy developed at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital will lead to broad protection for infants with the devastating immune disorder X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency disorder. ...

In lab research, scientists slow progression of a fatal form of muscular dystrophy

December 8, 2017
In a paper published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, Saint Louis University (SLU) researchers report that a new drug reduces fibrosis (scarring) and prevents loss of muscle function in an animal model of Duchenne ...

Double-blind study shows HIV vaccine not effective in viral suppression

December 7, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada has conducted a randomized double-blind study of the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine and has found it to be ineffective in suppressing the virus. In ...

Time matters: Does our biological clock keep cancer at bay?

December 7, 2017
Our body has an internal biological or "circadian" clock, which cycles daily and is synchronized with solar time. New research done in mice suggests that it can help suppress cancer. The study, publishing 7 December in the ...

Novel harvesting method rapidly produces superior stem cells for transplantation

December 7, 2017
A new method of harvesting stem cells for bone marrow transplantation - developed by a team of investigators from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute - appears to accomplish ...

Inhibiting TOR boosts regenerative potential of adult tissues

December 7, 2017
Adult stem cells replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues throughout our lifetime. We lose many of those stem cells, along with their regenerative capacity, as we age. Working in flies and mice, researchers at ...

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.