Scientists say they have found a new way to 'switch off' pain, and it could lead to the development of non-addictive drugs for millions of patients suffering chronic discomfort.
Researchers managed to block a pain pathway in rodents with chronic neuropathic pain, which develops due to nerve damage.
They did this by switching on a receptor, known as A3, in a rat's brain and spinal cord to counteract intense feelings of discomfort.
Current treatments for pain are problematic because they cause intolerable side effects, diminish quality of life and do not sufficiently quell pain, the scientists say.
But their new method could avoid nasty side effects from current pain relief drugs, such as addiction or increasing tolerance, meaning that people need to take higher and stronger doses of medication.
Scientists at Saint Louis University in Missouri, discovered that activating the A3 receptor in rodents - using a native chemical stimulator called adenosine, or synthetic drugs - prevents or reverses pain caused by nerve damage without side effects.
Their study is published in the medical journal, Brain.
Daniela Salvemini, Professor of pharmacological and physiological sciences at the university, demonstrated the ability of the A3 adenosine receptor to mediate pain relieving effects of the chemical adenosine.
'It has long been appreciated that harnessing the potent pain-killing effects of adenosine could provide a breakthrough step towards an effective treatment for chronic pain,' she said.
'Our findings suggest that this goal may be achieved by focusing future work on the A3AR pathway, in particular, as its activation provides robust pain reduction across several types of pain.'
The chemical is already being investigated by experts as anti-inflammatory and anticancer agent.
- Daily Mail