This could explain why animals lick their wounds beyond what is necessary to clean them. This drug is apparently several times stronger than morphine.
This article also mentions that the chemical may not be addictive or cause withdrawal symptoms like opiates (morphine, codeine, etc.) do. If it's feasible to extract this drug from human saliva in amounts that are great enough to be used recreationally, we may see a movement by the government to make possession of the drug illegal. This would present an ethical paradox, though, because the drug is created naturally by the human body.
However, that hasn't stopped the government before. Possession of diethyltryptamine (DMT), a powerful hallucinogenic which occurs naturally in many plants as well as in the pineal gland of the human brain, is also illegal. The drug is non-addictive and has no withdrawal symptoms, is not abused by a significant number of people, and is produced naturally in the human brain, yet it is banned by the government.
I think that these types of chemicals raise many interesting questions about the nature of drug prohibition. What properties do chemicals have that make them dangerous to society? Should drugs which already occur naturally in the body be prohibited as well? Why should the government regulate what substances we put into our own bodies Furthermore, why are obviously harmful and dangerous drugs like alcohol and tobacco legal when other drugs which have almost no negative effects are illegal?
Regardless, this is a great discovery and if the drug has few side effects, it could greatly improve modern medicine. I hope you guys enjoy the article.
http://www.newscientist.com/article....ine-news_rss20Saliva from humans has yielded a natural painkiller up to six times more powerful than morphine, researchers say.
The substance, dubbed opiorphin, may spawn a new generation of natural painkillers that relieve pain as well as morphine but without the addictive and psychological side effects of the traditional drug.
When the researchers injected a pain-inducing chemical into rats’ paws, 1 milligram of opiorphin per kilogram of body weight achieved the same painkilling effect as 3 milligrams of morphine.
The substance was so successful at blocking pain that, in a test involving a platform of upended pins, the rats needed six times as much morphine as opiorphin to render them oblivious to the pain of standing on the needle points.
“Its pain-suppressive effect is like that of morphine,” says Catherine Rougeot at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, who led the research. “But we have to test its side effects as it is not a pure painkiller,” she says. “It may also be an anti-depressive molecule.”
Rougeot and colleagues discovered that opiorphin works in nerve cells of the spine by stopping the usual destruction of natural pain-killing opiates there, called enkephalins.
Opiorphin is such a simple molecule that it should be possible to synthesise it and produce large quantities without having to isolate it from saliva, Rougeot explains. Alternatively, it might be possible to find drugs which trigger patients’ bodies to produce more of the molecule themselves.
Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (vol 103, p 17979)