Berlin: Scientists in Germany have discovered a new way of developing painkillers that are more effective and without dangerous side effects.
Researchers including those from Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin used computational simulation to analyse interactions at opioid receptors – the cell’s docking sites for painkillers.
When used in an animal model, their prototype of a morphine-like molecule was able to produce substantial pain relief in inflamed tissues.
However, healthy tissues remained unaffected, suggesting that the severe side effects currently associated with these types of painkillers might be avoided.
Opioids are a class of strong pain killers. They are mainly used to treat pain associated with tissue damage and inflammation, such as that caused by surgery, nerve damage, arthritis or cancer.
Common side effects associated with their use include drowsiness, nausea, constipation and dependency and, in some cases, respiratory arrest.
“By analysing drug-opioid receptor interactions in damaged tissues, as opposed to healthy tissues, we were hoping to provide useful information for the design of new painkillers without harmful side effects,” said Professor Christoph Stein of the Department of Anesthesiology and Surgical Critical Care Medicine.
Researchers with the help of innovative computational simulations were able to analyse morphine-like molecules and their interactions with opioid receptors.
They were able to successfully identify a new mechanism of action, which is capable of producing pain relief only in the desired target tissues – those affected by inflammation.
The finding was published in the journal Science.