May 17, 2019 08:56 AM EDT
This treatment can help people who suffer from substance abuse disorders that are related to opioid use for pain relief. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that around 1.7 million Americans suffer from this disorder. Health care and addiction treatment costs an estimated $78 billion annually. In addition, this disorder results to an increased criminal activity and loss of worker productivity.
n 2017, more than 47,000 people died as a result of drug abuse involving opioids and related drugs.
With this problem, researchers seek to find treatment that has few or no negative side effects.
Universiy of Virginia chemistry professor Ken Hsu and Myungsun Shin, his graduate student, discovered an enzyme that consumes molecules that provide chemical signals that control inflammation.
The new drug that could target pain is the naturally occurring enzyme called diacylglycerol lipase-beta, or DAGL-beta. Hsu developed in his postdoctoral training selective molecules, similar to aspirin and other non-steroidal molecules or NSAIDS, that target and inhibit DAGL-beta and reduce inflammation. The advantage of DAGL-beta inhibitors involves providing pain relief without toxic effects to the gastrointestine and another is they are not addicting.
"This could be a new route to treating long-term inflammation and pain without the side effects of toxicity and risk of addiction observed with current treatment options," Hsu said. "Generally, if we block inflammation, we also affect the immune response. But we're suggesting a different approach, one where we can stop inflammation without impacting the normal immune response."
"We found that by blocking DAGL-beta, we can stop inflammation without affecting immunity," Hsu said. "This supports the idea that DAGL-beta is a viable target for long-term blockade of inflammation and pain without potentially compromising our immune system."
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