In an amazing breakthrough, scientists discover a way to block the addiction to heroin and morphine, while still offering pain relief.
For years, patients have fallen prey to one of the world’s most addictive substances. Opioid drugs like Morphine and Heroin may not be a problem for much longer. Scientists from the University of Adelaide and University of Colorado have discovered a way to block addiction to these substances, without affecting their pain-relieving properties.
This new discovery could pave the way to a new drug that will help treat severe pain, and also aide in rehabilitating opiate addicts. Last year, scientists announced a heroin vaccine with potential, but the vaccine would remove any of the pain-killing effects of the drug, rendering pain treatment with Morphine useless. For one of the longest standing treatments for pain, and probably the most effective, dismissing the value of these opiates was unacceptable. Needless to say, this new discovery is paving the way to the next generation of medicine: Effectiveness without addiction.
Opiates bind to an immune receptor know as Toll-like Receptor 4 (TLR-4), much like how our immune system responds to bacteria. Problematically, TLR-4 also binds to opioids, amplifying chemical addiction. To battle this process, researchers block TLR-4 by using (+)-naloxene, a drug that was developed in the1970’s to prevent the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical the brain produces that leaves addicts feeling the rush. By eliminating the production of dopamine, they eliminated the cravings for the drugs, as well. However, blocking the TLR-4 also increases the pain-fighting properties of the opiates.
Dr. Mark Hutchinson, ARC Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s School of Medical Sciences says, Our studies have shown conclusively that we can block addiction via the immune system of the brain, without targeting the brain’s wiring.
Researchers predict human trials in the next 18 months. What does this mean for society? We are one small step closer to finding a way to beat our current opiate addiction problems and treating pain without causing a new epidemic. And that’s a giant leap for science, and mankind.