Pepper and Pain Management

Capsaicin is a substance that gives chili peppers their heat, and a substance similar to capsaicin is generated at the site of pain in the human body. Scientists at the Uni­versity of Texas (UT) Health Sci­ence Center at San Antonio have discovered how to block these capsaicin-like molecules and have created a new class of painkillers that are nonaddictive. Their findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Capsaicin causes pain by activating the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1). When seeking to discover why TRPV1 is consistently activated in the body upon injury or painful heat, the researchers discovered a family of endogenous capsaicin-like molecules called oxidized linoleic acid metabolites (OLAMs), which are naturally released during injury. Working with the hypothesis that blocking either the production or action of OLAMs could lead to new therapies and pharmacological interventions for various inflammatory diseases and pain disorders, the re­searchers developed 2 new classes of analgesics that either block the synthesis of OLAMs or antibodies that inactivate them. These drugs could eventually come in the form of a topical agent, a pill or liquid that could be ingested, or in the form of an injection. These approaches have the potential to block pain it its source, unlike opioid narcotics which travel to the brain and affect the central nervous system.
(Source: Mission, UT Health Science Center, San Antonio, Fall 2010)
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