JUL 30, 2016 12:44 PM PDT

Natural Pain Causing Substance Actually Acts As Painkiller

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet
Lesly B. Juarez via Unsplash.com
Substance P, a natural substance produced in the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system, is known to activate pain. However, new research shows that the substance only causes pain in the central nervous system - and actually acts as a painkiller in the peripheral nervous system. 

This research points to why many painkillers have failed to pass clinical trials over the last 20 years. These failed drugs successfully targeted Substance P in the lab. Yet, in clinical trials, they ended up unintentionally suppressing the substance’s ability to kill pain in the peripheral nervous system. Thus, after much funding, the drugs would always mysteriously fail. 

Substance P works as a painkiller in the peripheral nervous system by dampening the nerve cells' responsiveness and excitability. Oppositely, Substance P drives pain in the central nervous system by triggering signals that excite neurons. 

"We were really surprised by the results,” said lead researcher Nikita Gamper, from the University of Leeds. "Substance P is described in the literature as a molecule that gets nerve cells excited and promotes pain. But we've discovered a paradox - that in the peripheral nervous system, it acts as one of the body's natural painkillers and actually suppresses pain."

"Drugs like morphine hijack the body's natural painkilling mechanisms, such as… endorphins,” said lead researcher Nikita Gamper, from the University of Leed. However, because such drugs “act within the central nervous system, they can affect other brain cells that use similar pathways, leading to side effects such as addiction or sleepiness."

Gamper is now focusing on Substance P’s role in chronic pain. "If we could develop a drug to mimic the mechanism that Substance P uses, and ensured it couldn't pass the blood-brain barrier into the CNS, … it's likely it could suppress pain with limited side effects,” Gamper said. 

The research was openly published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling

Sources: "Redox-Dependent Modulation of T-Type Ca2 Channels in Sensory Neurons Contributes to Acute Anti-Nociceptive Effect of Substance P” in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, University of Leeds press release via Science Daily 

About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
You May Also Like
JAN 24, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 24, 2020
As Sperm Mature, They Scan Their DNA and Repair Errors They FInd
Researchers have learned that when sperm cells mature, they activate many of their genes, which enables a repair process to take place....
FEB 04, 2020
FEB 04, 2020
The Gut Deploys Protective Mechanisms in Coordination with Your Mealtime Habits
At mealtime, every mouthful of food contains a possible risk of incoming pathogens to the digestive system. The gut takes protective measures to account fo...
FEB 07, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
FEB 07, 2020
First HBCU Joins CBD Trade in Louisiana
While recreational marijuana remains illegal in Louisiana, the state has made some provisions for medical marijuana use, and 3,500 people are now enrolled ...
FEB 12, 2020
Health & Medicine
FEB 12, 2020
Brain Patients are Advancing Research
Neuroscientists may face the challenge of not having enough material or high-quality material to study the condition they’re researching. Luckily&mda...
FEB 14, 2020
FEB 14, 2020
CDC Director Expects Coronavirus to Find a "Foothold"
The novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China has now infected over 64,000 people....
FEB 16, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 16, 2020
Growing Cells on Scaffolding as an Alternative to Animal Models
Researchers may have just made it easier for investigators to switch to an engineered model and replace their animal colonies with electrospun synthetics....
Loading Comments...