Morphine is a powerful pain reliever, but it has the
unfortunate side effect of lowering blood pressure and depressing
normal breathing. Both effects can cause a shortage of oxygen
in the blood stream, a potentially deadly stress on an already
injured patient. Typically in a hospital setting the effects
are controlled with an antimorphine agent such as Naloxone, but on
the battlefield, without the extensive monitoring equipment of a
hospital, this becomes a dangerous art.
Now researchers at the
University of Michigan have devised both a new
drug and a new delivery system that promises to help control
these side effects and bring safer, more effective pain relief to
hospitals and to our soldiers serving overseas.
The new drug,
a Naloxone derivative, transforms into Naloxone, only when blood
oxygen levels dip to low, indicating the Morphine is interfering with
breathing. Describes Baohua Huang, Ph.D., the study’s first
author and a research investigator at the Michigan Nanotechnology
Institute and in Internal Medicine (MNIMBS), "When respiratory
distress is too severe, that will trigger release of Naloxone, the
antagonist (morphine-suppressing) drug. When the oxygen blood levels
go up, that will stop the action of the antagonist drug and more
morphine will be available."
The drug has been tested in
human plasma. MNIMBS researchers are now working on perfecting
a dendrimer nanoparticle
delivery package, basically a vesicle formed from ultra-small
polymers, that can deliver both morphine and its safeguard in a
common package. The entire package will soon be tested on
animals, in preparation for eventual human trials and deployment to
While drug development isn't always exciting,
what's really exciting about this drug is its potential to literally
save lives. It promises to bring safer relief to millions.
Anyone who's suffered chronic pain, has a loved one who has suffered
from chronic pain, or has had a loved one injured overseas in combat
can appreciate that.
The new research is
published in the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry