A new drug, developed at the University of Michigan, provides controlled release of a morphine antidote to prevent its dangerous side effects. The drug, a Naloxone derivative, has great potential for use both at home and on the battlefield.  (Source: Science Direct)

The new drug could literally save the lives of soldiers injured in battle.  (Source: U of M)
Morphine + special new drug + polymer nanoparticles = a lifesaver

With injury, chronic or sudden, comes pain.  The severity of pain can cause a variety of detrimental effects and dangers.  One of the most common pain-relievers, used both on battlefields and in hospitals at home, is Morphine. 

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 the battlefield.

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 Letters.

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