Link #43: Your Spit Is Six Times Better at Killing Pain Than...

Link #43: Your Spit Is Six Times Better at Killing Pain Than Morphine!

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Link #43: Your Spit Is Six Times Better at Killing Pain Than Morphine!

spit
Image credit: Sam Fox Photography cc2.0

The French have given the world many wonderful things. In our last post, we mentioned how the Eiffel Tower changes height when temperatures around it fluctuate. However, the French aren’t only known for constructing what remained the tallest structure for a large chunk of the 19th century.

For instance, the French are also known for discovering that your spit contains a painkilling substance that is six times more potent than morphine! How is this possible? Read on.

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What Makes Your Spit Six Times More Effective Than Morphine at Killing Pain?

Opiorphin
Chemical structure of Opiorphin by Edgar181 PD image

The reason human saliva is six times more effective than morphine at killing pain is because it contains a substance known as opiorphin. Opiorphin is a natural painkiller that can be extracted from our saliva.

It was discovered by French scientists after they realised that rats contain a painkilling substance in their saliva known as sialorphin. Since rats are biologically very similar to humans, the scientists speculated that human saliva could also contain such a substance.


How Do They Know That Opiorphin Is Six Times as Strong as Morphine?

WT_and_TK_rat_photo
Lab rats. Image credit: Jason Snyder cc2.0

In order to find how strong opiorphin really is, the scientists experimented on rats. The experiment involved putting rats through painful exercises and administering dosages of both opiorphin and morphine.

There were a variety of tests but the most prominent involved a bed of pins. The rats were made to walk on a platform made up of upturned pins. While painful, the process was without any lasting damage. They injected the rats’ paws with opiorphin and made them walk on this platform.

They discovered that morphine needed to be applied in a quantity that was six times more than opiorphin for the rats to be able to walk over the platform while not feeling as much pain.


How Does Opiorphin Work?

Met-enkephalin_1plx_model_1
Met-enkephalin 3D structure, alpha-carbons shown as balls and labeled by residue. Image credit: ElaineMeng cc3.0

The human spinal cord creates natural substances known as enkephalins every time our bodies’ sensors recognise pain. The purpose of enkephalins is to help decrease pain inside our bodies. Unfortunately, they break up fairly quickly and have a short lifespan within our bodies.

What opiorphin does is that it slows down their natural breakdown. This allows them to be more effective inside our bodies when it comes to subduing pain. In addition to this, scientists think that opiorphin can also help prevent depression in humans. This is another quality of opiorphin that is similar to morphine, just like painkilling.


How Useful Is Opiorphin Really?

Painkillers
Painkillers. Image credit: Eric Norris cc2.0

Naturally occurring painkillers are very rare as only a few animals have been found to have them. This is why the discovery of opiorphin is important. It can allow us to fashion painkillers based on naturally occurring substances.

Synthetically created painkillers that are used widely today often come with side effects. With painkillers based on a naturally occurring substance, the problem of side effects would not be so serious.

Similarly, it’s not uncommon for people to get immune to painkillers if they use them too much. Use of opiorphin painkillers can prevent this from happening too.




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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opiorphin
http://www.nature.com/news/2006/061113/full/news061113-4.html
http://io9.com/you-have-a-painkiller-six-time-stronger-than-morphine-i-1601853735
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/14/AR2006111400700.html
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10514-naturalborn-painkiller-found-in-human-saliva.html#.VJP2bsCA

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