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New Treatment for Chronic Pain May Come From Old Anti-Psychotic Drug

Sep, 2022

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Scientists have found that an old psychotic drug, fluphenazine reduces levels of metabolite associated with chronic pain signaling pathway

A new study published in the journal Science on August 31, 2022, revealed how an already existing anti-psychotic drug is capable of blocking a signaling pathway associated with chronic neuropathic pain. According to the findings of this new study, a new treatment for chronic pain could be developed with this drugs. Moreover, the findings also revealed an unexpected relation between lung cancer and chronic pain.

An international team of researchers from Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of Austrian Academy of Science (IMBA), Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School involved in the research found a specific signaling pathway in previous investigations of this study. This pathways according to the team is unique to chronic pain. The team found a metabolite named BH4 which the sensory neurons produce when there is inflammatory and neuropathic pain. The intensity of chronic pain increases when the BH4 levels are high, which is why the researchers tried to block this signaling in pain neurons.

The team performed a phenotypic screen on nearly 1000 bioactive molecules to find out drugs that can regulate this gene expression linked to higher BH4 levels. During this screening for drugs, the team found an old anti-psychotic drug named fluphenazine that was effective in this specific pathway of pain signaling. When the team tested this drug in engineered mice, they found how low doses of this drug were able to suppress nerve injury pain.

Moreover, the researchers also discovered a link between lung cancer and BH4, as the lower BH4 levels were found to slow down tumor growth in mice with lung cancer. Overall the finding of the study indicate that blocking BH4 could be a new treatment for chronic pain and the link found between certain type of cancer and chronic pain would lead future studies to treatment for both conditions.

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