We all have experienced this unpleasant sensation of pain when pricking our finger on something sharp or touching a hot stove. Nonetheless, pain is essential in alerting our body of an existing medical issue that needs to be treated, or in preventing our bodies from major injuries. However, sometimes pain goes for weeks, months or even years. This is called chronic pain, a debilitating condition with life-altering consequences, often leaving those who suffer unable to maintain normal daily activities.
Neuroscientist Norbert Weiss, PhD, and his team at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry in Prague, in collaboration with Gerald W. Zamponi’s team at the University of Calgary in Canada have discovered a new molecule that can reverse chronic pain.
The study published this week in the journal Pflügers Archiv – European Journal of Physiology, reveals how a single molecule blocker of calcium channels can alleviate pain in animal models.
Calcium channels are essential in processing pain information in the nervous system as they not only contribute to the genesis of the pain signal but also form gates that open to allow pain messages through to the brain.
Although the implication of calcium channels in the transmission of pain signals has been known for a long time, their therapeutic use for the treatment of pain is rendered complicated because of their diversity.
“Imagine a castle with many doors. If you want to prevent someone to get in you need to close all of these doors. The situation is similar if you want to stop pain by blocking calcium channels”.
To bypass this issue, Norbert Weiss and his team have been looking for molecules with the ability to equally block channel variants.
“What we have found is a master key that can be used to close all these doors at once”.
The end result is a single molecule with very powerful and long-lasting analgesic effects.
Weiss is now applying his research to develop new drugs that could one day translate into new painkillers.
“Our discovery opens new avenues towards the development novel analgesics, and based on our data we believe it is a practical strategy,” says Weiss, the lead author of the study and research group leader at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry in Prague.