Newly developed addiction-free pain reliever targets inflammation

Researchers with the University of Virginia have detailed the discovery of a potential new pain reliever that shows promise for offering relief without the addiction potential of existing opioid pain medication. According to a newly published study, the pain relief involves diacylglycerol lipase-beta (DAGL?) inhibitors that show anti-inflammation and pain relieving potential without the negative side effects.

Pain relievers, though they're a vital tool for individuals suffering acute and chronic issues, remain a problem for society at large. Commonly available non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are often used over long periods of time for chronic issues like arthritis, but can result in the development of gastrointestinal issues, driving health care costs and hospital visits.

In addition, more powerful opioid pain relievers, which are often prescribed for serious types of pain, have severe addiction potential. The ramifications of this potential have become a growing problem for society, which increasingly faces crime, legal, productivity, and health care issues related to opioid addiction.

These issues have driven research into potential pain relief alternatives that don't come with the same gastrointestinal, liver, and addiction issues as commonly used substances. We've seen promising studies detailing novel solutions, including snail venom found to have incredibly powerful pain-relieving effects.

Joining that body of research is the new study out of the University of Virginia, where researchers Ken Hsu and Myungsun Shin identified the enzyme DAGL? and its ability to 'chew up fat' molecules. Chemical signals that control inflammation are produced by this enzyme's activity, hinting at a potential avenue for pain relief.

Hsu developed selective molecules capable of inhibiting the enzyme, leading to reduced inflammation akin to the effect of taking an aspirin. Pre-clinical models involving the work indicate that the inhibitors do not come with the same addiction potential and gastrointestinal side effects of existing pain relievers, however.

The inhibitors were found to be effective for different types of pain, including peripheral neuropathy-related pain. Blocking the enzyme didn't have a negative impact on immunity, however, hinting at the potential for use as a long-term pain treatment option.