One of the most challenging types of pain to address is neuropathic pain, which typically results from nerve damage in various body tissues such as skin, muscle, and joints. This type of pain can manifest as sensations like electric shocks, tingling, burning, or stabbing, and is often associated with conditions like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy, injuries, and amputations. Neuropathic pain is frequently chronic, relentless, and affects millions of individuals globally. Current pain medications for this type of pain are only moderately effective and often carry significant side effects, including the risk of addiction.

Researchers from UT Austin, The University of Texas at Dallas, and the University of Miami have identified a molecule, named FEM-1689, that has shown promise in reducing hypersensitivity in mouse trials by binding to a protein implicated in neuropathic pain. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlights the compound’s effectiveness as a painkiller with enduring effects. Notably, FEM-1689 does not interact with opioid receptors, suggesting it could serve as an alternative to existing medications associated with addiction. Besides reducing sensitivity, the compound also has the potential to regulate the integrated stress response (ISR), a cellular signaling network crucial for the body’s response to injuries and diseases.

Stephen Martin, co-corresponding author and June and J. Virgil Waggoner Regents Chair in Chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin, emphasized the goal of developing FEM-1689 into a non-opioid drug for treating chronic pain, addressing the need for a well-tolerated and effective solution. NuvoNuro Inc., a company co-founded by Martin and other researchers, has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health HEAL Initiative to advance the development of a drug based on these findings. The research, spanning five years, exemplifies academic drug discovery’s contribution to advancing non-opioid pain therapeutics, with potential clinical development in the coming years. Various authors on the paper, including Theodore Price from The University of Texas at Dallas, expressed enthusiasm about the project’s progress and its potential impact on the opioid crisis.

 

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