Written by Ed Cara, February 02, 2018
As doctors and scientists struggle to turn the tide of the opioid crisis, which killed more than 63,000 Americans in 2016, there are others looking further ahead, trying to create a world where addiction can’t take hold in the first place. One such approach, created by a team of scientists in the U.K., is a nasal spray that shoots a naturally produced opioid straight to the brain—seemingly without causing the euphoric high and tolerance that can lead to dependence.
As per The Guardian:
Scientists at University College London found they could alleviate pain in animals with a nasal spray that delivered millions of soluble nanoparticles filled with a natural opioid directly into the brain. In lab tests, the animals showed no signs of becoming tolerant to the compound’s pain-relieving effects, meaning the risk of overdose should be far lower.
When we take opioids like morphine as drugs, they’re absorbed throughout the body, affecting everything from our brain to the gut. This explains why they can cause everything from euphoria to pain relief to constipation. They also lose their effectiveness the longer we take them, causing users to need more of the drug to get the same results, thanks in part to the specific type of opioid receptors they activate.
Scientists have found that another class of opioids found in the body—the enkephalins—seem to avoid causing this pattern of dependence while still having a pain-killing effect, likely due to the different receptors they activate. But it’s been impossible to develop enkephalin-based painkillers, because they break down too quickly in the body and can’t cross the brain-blood barrier through pills or injections, meaning they can’t actually affect our perception of pain.
According to Ijeoma Uchegbu, professor of pharmaceutical nanoscience at the University College London, the technology his team developed gets around this hurdle in two ways.
First, they envelope the enkephalin in a proprietary polymer, creating nanosized particles that can... [ CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE ]
[CURATED CONTENT: Written by Amy Ellis Nutt, February 8, 2018 - originally published on The Washington Post: (Gizmodo.com).]