DEC 09, 2016 8:50 AM PST

Compound in Saliva 6x More Potent than Morphine

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Right now, your mouth is a biogenerator of a potent painkiller. As it turns out, saliva contains a chemical known as opiorphin, which researchers discovered is about 6 times stronger than a dose of morphine. That's not so bad for sputum, is it?

The compound opiorphin relieves pain by preventing the breakdown of other chemicals, known as enkephalins, which stimulate the body's opiate receptors. This process blocks pain signals from registering in the brain, making it a powerful painkiller. In experiments with rats, researchers showed that rats needed nearly 6 times more morphine than opiorphin to block pain.

Of note natural painkillers are extremely rare, and the discovery of a potent analgesic in our own mouth could create a new natural weapon to fight pain. Now, if only researchers know how to harness this so that all visits to the dentist will be pain-free…
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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