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U. Michigan Enlists Nanomedicine To Combat Pain on the Battlefield

by Editor1 last modified September 24, 2009 - 21:10

Researchers at the University of Michigan say their work in nanomedicine may result in safer, quicker and more effective ways than morphine to combat painful battlefield injuries. The work focuses on use of nanotechnology to devise ultra-small polymer particles capable of carrying the drugs into the body.

U. Michigan Enlists Nanomedicine To Combat Pain on the Battlefield

Scientists at the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences (MNIMBS) use nanomedicine to improve battlefield pain killers.

Research was conducted by scientists at the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences (MNIMBS). The scientists publish their findings in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, September issue.

Soldiers injured in combat typically receive morphine as soon as possible to relieve pain. Morphine, however, also depresses normal breathing and blood pressure, sometimes to life-threatening levels. So medics need to give a short-acting drug that aids normal respiration and heart beat, but in doses that still allow the morphine to relieve pain effectively.

Today, achieving that balance is a challenge outside a hospital.
The combination drug that U-M scientists have developed promises to make balanced treatment possible even in combat zones, says James R. Baker, Jr., M.D., director of the MNIMBS and the study’s senior author. He adds the research also holds promise for many away for the battlefield, who also seek pain relief.

More About the Nanoscale Pain-Relief Research
U-M chemists screened several compounds to search for a successful “pro drug,” a drug that can release or become another drug. In this case, they wanted one that could convert to Naloxone, a drug now used to counter morphine’s effects, but would activate only when blood oxygen levels drop too low.

In laboratory tests using human plasma, one pro drug successfully sensed oxygen levels and turned on or off as needed.

“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,” says Baohua Huang, Ph.D., the study’s first author and a research investigator at the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute and in Internal Medicine.

“This system could improve pain management for millions of patients with chronic illnesses,” says Baker, Ruth Dow Doan Professor and allergy division chief in the U-M Department of Internal Medicine.

The research is funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, whose long-term goal for such studies is to develop a practical method that medics or soldiers themselves could administer, perhaps using an auto-injector device.