Ever since my disabling injury in 2004, I've suffered from neuropathic pain from a damaged nerve. It's the most debilitating thing imaginable . . . narcotics can control it to a certain extent, but never eliminate it. Can you imagine what it's like to live 24/7/365 in constant, never-ending pain? It ain't fun, I'm here to tell you! I'm not complaining: I can still walk (to a certain extent, anyway), and I'm relatively mobile, and drugs can keep the pain to a bearable level. Others have been (and are) less fortunate than I. Still, I remember with almost giddy fondness the six hours after an epidural injection, a while ago, when the anesthetic accompanying the injection had completely numbed everything below my waist. For the first time in years, I had no pain!!! It's a sad commentary when one longs for another such injection, isn't it?
Anyway, the BBC reports that coral may be the source of a new medication for such pain.
Dr Zhi-Hong Wen and colleagues at the National Sun Yat-Sen University [of Taiwan] have been testing a chemical called capnellene, which is isolated from soft coral collected at Green Island, a small volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean about 33km off the eastern coast of Taiwan.
The reef there is said to be home to more than 200 different types of coral.Capnella Imbricata, or Kenya Tree Coral, the source of capnellene
Capnellene appears to work on the supporting cells that surround nerve cells, which are thought to be responsible for neuropathic pain in some way.
Recent research suggests inflammation plays a role, and inflammation activates supporting cells like microglia to release compounds that can excite nerves carrying pain signals.
People with neuropathic pain experience severe pain from a stimulus or touch that would normally cause only slight discomfort or stimuli that would normally induce no pain at all.
Some even get unpleasant or painful feelings even when there is no stimulus.
It is estimated that about 1 in 100 people in the UK have persistent neuropathic pain - many are people with nerve damage caused by diabetes.
Dr Wen's team tested capnellene and a second very similar compound in isolated microglia cells and in experimental models of neuropathic pain in rats, with promising results.
They say more studies are now needed to see if this could offer a new way to treat the condition.
Dr Wen said: "Today there are few pharmacological agents that can help people suffering from neuropathic pain, but we believe that these marine-derived compounds could lead to the development of a new range of drugs of great potential."
There's more at the link.
I don't have words to tell you how exciting this prospect is to me (and, I'm sure, to everyone who suffers from constant, never-ending neuropathic pain). If Dr. Wen and his team can perfect this, we'll be singing their praises for the rest of our lives!