Could a Natural Painkiller Nasal Spray Replace Addictive Opioids?
Could a nasal spray help people avoid opioid addiction? Well, that’s the hope of scientists from University College London who created a nasal spray that shoots a naturally produced opioid straight to the brain – and seemingly without the euphoric high and dangerous tolerance that can lead to addiction.
The team of scientists discovered that a class of opioids found in the body — the enkephalins — avoid causing this pattern of dependence while still having a pain-killing effect, likely due to the different receptors they activate. To help it break down quickly in the body and cross the brain-blood barrier, the scientists enveloped the enkephalin in a proprietary polymer, creating nanosized particles that can sneak through the blood-brain barrier via the nasal spray.
They tested the pain-relieving spray on mice and found no signs of tolerance or any signs of craving, such as reward-seeking behavior.
“If people don’t develop tolerance, you don’t have them always having to up the dose. And if they don’t have to up the dose, they won’t get closer and closer to overdose,” Ijeoma Uchegbu, a professor of pharmaceutical nanoscience who is leading the research through Nanomerics, a UCL startup, told The Guardian.
The next step is to raise funds for the first human clinical trial. Researchers aim to start with healthy volunteers who will receive the nasal spray to see if it helps them endure the pain of immersing one of their arms in ice-cold water, according to The Guardian.
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