A natural pain treatment expected to be better than morphine is hoping to begin human tests this year.
Opiorphin, a peptide naturally produced by humans, avoids the worst side effects of morphine while still delivering the same amount of pain relief.
Researchers from Paris-Sud University expect the new molecule to stop respiratory failure, a fatal risk of current morphine use, as well as reduced addiction and constipation.
Current studies have shown no adverse effects on breathing, blood pressure or heart rate, giving scientists hope.
Morphine treatment can cause degradation of our natural morphine production, leading to dependence and addiction, as well as a higher tolerance.
“A classic solution is to increase the dosage and therefore the side effects associated with the drug,” explained Dr Phillippe Sitbon from Paris-Sud University, describing opiorphin as “a new class of potent and safe painkiller.”
Unlike morphine and many other painkillers that only affect specific pain receptors in the body, opiorphin only affects painful stimulus.
This versatility can lead to the molecule having much greater application than most similar molecules, with hopes that it can help with harder to treat problems like neuropathic pain.