Health & Wellbeing

RNA-based decoy molecule suggests path to opioid-free pain control

RNA-based decoy molecule sugge...
A new strategy for pain control could be to disrupt the signals coming from the site of the injury
A new strategy for pain control could be to disrupt the signals coming from the site of the injury
View 1 Image
A new strategy for pain control could be to disrupt the signals coming from the site of the injury
1/1
A new strategy for pain control could be to disrupt the signals coming from the site of the injury

Many modern opioid-based painkillers don't target the specific site of pain but instead interfere with the brain's sensation of that pain. It's not an especially efficient way to tackle pain and has resulted in widespread social problems stemming from the addictive quality of the drugs. A team of researchers has revealed a novel method for reducing our responsiveness to pain and it involves tricking our body's pain-signaling processes.

A great deal of research is currently underway to find effective and viable new techniques to control pain without resorting to addictive and psychoactive opioids. Some scientists are looking to nature, inspired by the venom of sea snails or the unusual anatomy of poisonous frogs. Other research is looking inward at human beings with unique genetic mutations that cause them to feel no pain. This new study looks at pain from a different perspective, focusing on how the body communicates the signals for pain on a molecular level.

"When you have an injury, certain molecules are made rapidly," says Zachary Campbell, from the The University of Texas at Dallas. "With this Achilles' heel in mind, we set out to sabotage the normal series of events that produce pain at the site of an injury. In essence, we eliminate the potential for a pathological pain state to emerge."

The pain we feel from inflammation or injury is communicated to the brain by a set of pain-signaling proteins. These proteins are produced as directed by messenger molecules called mRNA, provided by a cell's genome. The new research has identified a way to inject a compound at the site of an injury that effectively acts as an RNA mimic, disrupting the process that produces the pain-signaling proteins and communicating to the rest of the body that everything is essentially OK.

"We're manipulating one step of protein synthesis," says Campbell. "Our results indicate that local treatment with the decoy can prevent pain and inflammation brought about by a tissue injury."

Across several experiments on mice the RNA mimic molecule was successfully found to reduce the animal's behavioral response to pain. Campbell says this is the first time anyone has created a compound that can successfully disrupt RNA-protein interactions and the implications of the research could be much more broad than just a new pain-relieving drug.

"Our approach suggests that targeting those interactions may provide a new source of pharmacological agents," says Campbell. "This proof of concept allows us to open a whole new area of science by virtue of the route that we're attacking it."

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: University of Texas at Dallas

6 comments
VincentWolf
What if your nerves themselves are the cause of the pain? Will this work in this case? My foot is killing me and it's a pinched nerve that's inoperable. The only solution is to chop off the foot. Or take tons of opoids to alleviate SOME of the pain. And I mean 'SOME' literally. Ouch.
akarp
If you are in pain, I'd recommend Kratom, a plant that produces pain reliving alkaloids without the horrible side effects of opioids. Kratom is what I use to treat degenerating spinal discs (L5, S1) and lets me do yoga, core workouts.
LarryStevens
Isn't inflammation how your body heals itself? If you shut that down, do you still heal? I've been reading that anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs, ice) are not recommended except right after an injury.
ljaques
Embracing alcohol, legalizing pot, ignoring cocaine, but coming down heavy on anything anyone can use to alleviate pain, and calling some suicides "opioid overdose". Brilliant tactics, folks. I think they're the same ones calling suicide by gun "gun violence". // Well, hopefully, some good will come of this new direction they're testing. But, for God's sake, don't outlaw the only relief some people have to rid themselves of SOME pain. Now that CONgress is involved, anything is liable to happen, with their complete exemptions, of course.
guzmanchinky
I had my L5 S1 fused because of pain, and I'm so happy. I used percocet afterwards and I hated the feel of it. Sure wish they would come up with something better.
BanisterJH
I wonder how long this change persists.