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Morphine-like painkiller appears to be less addictive

NEW ORLEANS, March 24 Move over, morphine: Researchers at the University of Arizona and the University of New England have developed a new narcotic based on a natural painkiller found in the body that appears in animal studies to be more potent but less addictive.

Although researchers have developed many narcotic-type painkillers that rival morphine in strength, few have had the ability to avoid its potential side effects, until now. These side effects include severe constipation, reduced blood pressure and breathing, and addiction.

"This represents one of the most promising morphine-like painkillers to date in terms of avoiding its side effects, particularly addiction," says Robin Polt, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at the University of Arizona in Tucson and a chief researcher on the project. He presented details of the research today at the 225th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Called a glycosylated enkephalin, the compound appears promising in studies using mice. If it works in humans, it could be a safer alternative for people who are allergic to morphine or cannot take the drug because of concern for its side effects, the researchers say.

These improved features make it particularly appealing to the military, which hopes that the safer, less-addictive drugs can be self-administered by soldiers who are severely wounded during battle without depending on the assistance of a medic.

"Our hope is that glycosylated enkephalins can be used to block pain in severe trauma injuries, in victims who could not normally receive narcotics," says Polt, who is currently serving as a visiting scientist at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va.

Morphine, one of the most potent pain relievers available, is beneficial to both cancer and trauma patients. However, its potential side effects have limited its use.

For years, researchers have sough
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