WEDNESDAY, April 28, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- The human body produces a substance similar to capsaicin -- which makes chili peppers hot -- at sites of pain, and blocking production of this substance can ease pain, a new study shows.
The findings may lead to the development of non-addictive painkillers, according to the researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
In work with mice, the scientists found that a family of fatty acids called oxidized linoleic acid metabolites (OLAMs) play an important role in the biology of pain.
"This is a major breakthrough in understanding the mechanisms of pain and how to more effectively treat it," senior investigator Kenneth Hargreaves, chair of the Department of Endodontics in the Dental School at the UT Health Sciences Center, said in an UT news release.
"These data demonstrate, for the first time, that OLAMs constitute a new family of naturally occurring capsaicin-like agents, and may explain the role of these substances in many pain conditions. This hypothesis suggests that agents blocking either the production or action of these substances could lead to new therapies and pharmacological interventions for various inflammatory diseases and pain disorders such as arthritis, fibromyalgia and others, including pain associated with cancer."
The researchers developed two new classes of analgesic drugs that target OLAMs.
"Nearly everyone will experience persistent pain at some point in their lifetime," Dr. Hargreaves said. "Our findings are truly exciting because they will offer physicians, dentists and patients more options in prescription pain medications. In addition, they may help circumvent the problem of addiction and dependency to pain medications, and will have the potential to benefit millions of people who suffer from chronic pain every day."
The research was published April 26 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about pain.