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Biotech Science

Scientists Find New Painkiller From Saliva 398

dptalia writes "Scientists have found a new pain killer based on human saliva. Apparently 1 gram of the new drug provides as much pain blocking as 3 grams of morphine. The drug blocks the breakdown of the body's natural pain killing mechanism. Scientists say the molecule is simple and synthesis is expected to be simple."
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Scientists Find New Painkiller From Saliva

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  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:20AM (#16835946) Homepage Journal
    When the researchers injected a pain-inducing chemical into rats' paws, 1 gram of opiorphin per kilogram of body weight achieved the same painkilling effect as 3 grams of morphine.

    Well wouldn't you say anything to make them stop spitting on you?

    "No more, yes alright it works I'm not in pain anymore."

    Moving out of cuckoo land, I have a twisted ankle after a fall yesterday should I hock a loogie onto it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      is that why he used his own spit in brokeback mountain
    • Re:Make it stop! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @09:20AM (#16836650)
      Funny, but morphine is hardly for ankle twisting pain.

      I've been on several pain management clinics/programs - the last one being pretty much on the cutting edge of medical stuff (lots of experts trained in new stuff who travel worldwide for conferences about pain management and all). I've been taking morphine several times a day for a few years for chronic pain. It sucks. The side effects suck. But it's the only thing that's given me anything close to a "quality of life".

      If it helps to put things in perspective, in the last group (about 20 ppl), when asked if we had honestly thought about ending our lives to make the pain stop, nobody's answered no. Being in excruciating pain each and every second of your life is very hard. You don't get a break when you can't handle it anymore. It's almost like being tortured, and it never ever stops, until the day you die.

      It's a very hard thing to live. Hard to get or keep a job too, when almost half the time you're either in too much pain to be useful for anything or taken too much morphine that you're not "all there" anymore. You can't drive when you're taking the stuff either. Half the docs out there see you as an addict or something. And there's the complications and side effects. And when things happen like you catch a cold or gastro and you vomit, then you can't keep down your morphine either, then things start to go REALLY bad. You gotta to to the hospital, and it's not like they'll just give you a shot no questions asked. Your self-esteem is at an all-time low (no work, feeling worthless and a burden, etc). You can't sleep right. It sucks. Your life sucks. If I didn't have kids to look after, I'd likely have committed suicide a couple years ago just to end the pain.

      Any new pain management method is a godsend. If I could, I'd volunteer to test this stuff for free (worst case scenario, I die, and the pain ends with it).

      That's the daily reality of someone dealing with chronic pain. Morphine isn't just something for addicts and getting high. It makes the lives of millions bearable and worth living. And it's not just for old folks with cancer either - I just turned 30 last month.
      • Re:Make it stop! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Aurisor ( 932566 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @11:04AM (#16837736) Homepage
    • by jimbojw ( 1010949 ) <wilson...jim...r@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @09:43AM (#16836830) Homepage
      Apparently kissing does make it better.
  • Oh great! (Score:3, Funny)

    by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:24AM (#16835968)
    Just when I'd kicked my morphine habit, now I'm going to get jailed for posession of saliva.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by digitaldc ( 879047 ) *
      Just when I'd kicked my morphine habit, now I'm going to get jailed for posession of saliva.

      Just don't try to bring any saliva to jail in your mouth, it's always the first place they look.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Just don't try to bring any saliva to jail in your mouth, it's always the first place they look.

        Good luck trying to find someone who'll shove it up your ass for you...
    • by wobblie ( 191824 )
      Why was this modded "funny"?!?

      It should be "+5, Insightful"

      You know it is coming.
  • by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:25AM (#16835974) Homepage Journal
    'cos morphine rules !!

    I was in hospital one time after an operation and I was on a self administered morhine drip. But it would only give 1mg every 2 minutes (or whatever is the appropriate dose). But the machine also logs how many times you press the button so the staff can see how much pain you think you're in.

    So I wouldn't have to count, I pressed the button every time the track changed on my mp3 player. Best hospital visit evar!!!1

    I was lying there one time, opened my eyes and the Everquest HUD was there. In the chat window I was being spammed with :

    You need to go to the toilet.
    You need to go to the toilet.
    You need to go to the toilet.
    You need to go to the toilet.

    Eventually I went and everybody who spoke on the journey, their chat came up in the window.

    It was ace.

    When they checked the machine they asked me if I was in a lot of pain, I ust said "no I like the morphine" and we all had a laugh. Until they took it off me.

    Then they gave me these awful morphine based tablets and they gave me a bad trip so I stopped taking them.

    • by kria ( 126207 ) <roleplayer DOT carrie AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @08:26AM (#16836300) Journal
      More than the idea of reducing the quantity required, the question is whether this substance can block pain without having addictive qualities. That's a very important question, I think, and one that it seems they don't have the info on yet, because I can't imagine them leaving it out if they knew.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by TinCanFury ( 131752 )
        People selfishly swallowing gallons of their own saliva, drinking juices in between just to get their next kick... Oh god, I hope the Republicans take over congress again so they can attack this scourge to society.

        Think of the children! Defenseless, even on school yards! We will need to increase the number of police on the streets with packs of flour to stuff into people's mouths to prevent prevent them from getting high.
      • by wobblie ( 191824 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:56AM (#16837634)
        THC has little to no addictive qualities. It is perverse how something one could grow in ones backyard, for free, is of the highest criminality, yet somehow we feel a need to come up with something else - usually not as good - that requires an entire industrial infrastructure. While it is not hard to understand the reasons for this sad state of affairs, it is still ... sad.
    • by djtachyon ( 975314 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @08:38AM (#16836378) Homepage Journal
      You know you waste your life on an MMO when ...
    • by bytesex ( 112972 )
      I've been on morphine once, in a hospital right after an operation. I found it very boring; it just made me fuzzy. I don't see why junkies would have such a good time with it.
      • by binkzz ( 779594 )
        Interestingly, if morphine is administered against pain or as treatment, the addiction rate is very, very low as opposed to taking morphine when you don't need it.
        • by 93,000 ( 150453 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:08AM (#16837054)
          Very true. Around 15 yrs ago my father was on morphine for nearly a year for chronic pain, and had no trouble going off. As his doctor said back then (perhaps not so scientifically): The pain uses up all of the drug, so there's none leftover to get addicted on.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          People take it to self-medicate for emotional pain, which can be every bit as agonizing as physical pain. I would even say it's basically impossible to take morphine when one "doesn't need it". It's a painkiller, and people take it for many types of pain.

          A drug addict doesn't take drugs to get high, he takes them because he can't tolerate being sober. A person who's problem is only a broken arm or whatever has no problem being sober; he just doesn't want his arm to hurt. When the arm stops hurting, his
      • Did you take more than you were supposed to? "Junkies" take much more than a hospital gives.

        Just like cough syrup. What the label says to take doesn't do anything. It's only fun when you "abuse" [totse.com] it.
    • You don't normally have an EQ HUD? Sorry...
  • The scientists never think these things through, do they? This is going to create huge problems for school discipline. Now whenever students are caught shooting spit balls at other students they can claim they were just implanting an airborne pain killer delivery system.

    "But I was just helping Anne's neck pain..."
  • [X] I am willing to test mankinds new potent pain killer.

    I have.. migraines... on occasion...
  • Saliva? (Score:5, Funny)

    by onion2k ( 203094 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:27AM (#16835984) Homepage
    Saliva is a painkiller? How come I have toothache then?
  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:28AM (#16835992)
    So, the behaviour observed in animals where they lick wounds, and even in humans, that 'kiss it better' (introduce saliva to the wound), or suck on a sore wound to make it feel better, by instinct, hasn't given the clue that there's something in saliva that helps?
    There's a whole store of herb and animal lore that's been systematically quashed for decades (well, since the great witch hunts really), and science is only just getting round to looking at it now.
    There's a lot to be said for 'complimentary' medicine for lesser ailments (although the modern pharmaceutical treatments are definitely magnitudes more effective for front line serious treatment). Rather than just decrying it, perhaps it should be investigated more thoroughly?
    • by Manchot ( 847225 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:47AM (#16836096)
      Given that the drug appears to be newly discovered, it is probably present only in small concentrations in saliva. Saliva by itself probably doesn't have any painkilling effect. However, since there are many enyzmes present in saliva, sucking and/or spitting on a wound does still have the beneficial effect of cleaning it.
    • by lachlan76 ( 770870 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:56AM (#16836164)
      Actually, I believe that the instinct to lick a wound is because saliva contains Lysozyme [wikipedia.org], which makes it easier for white blood cells to engulf a bacterium. Its presence in tears is one of the reasons that you cry when you get something in your eyes.
    • by mgblst ( 80109 )
      ...and even in humans, that 'kiss it better' (introduce saliva to the wound)
      You know that when you kiss it better, you really aren't supposed to french kiss it?
    • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @09:18AM (#16836634)
      So, the behaviour observed in animals where they lick wounds, and even in humans, that 'kiss it better' (introduce saliva to the wound), or suck on a sore wound to make it feel better, by instinct, hasn't given the clue that there's something in saliva that helps?

      I've been moaning about that for years, and without exception, every pet owner and every vet considered me nuts. I noticed that if you lay a plate of food on the ground and have a dog lick it clean, a thin clear coating builds up on the surface of the plate. Give it a day or two, and washing the plate hot soapy water doesn't remove the coating as you'd think it would.

      Mind you I don't know what's in saliva, and as this article suggests, few have stopped to consider the subject long enough to study it. What I do know is that the standard procedure of treating a dog for an injury or skin problem involves topical antiobiotics in combination with a cone that's placed over the dog's head (if a dog has any self respect, it's lost in minutes after the cone goes on). Licking, according to established wisdom, defeats the purpose, infects the wound or injury, saliva is full of germs, blah blah blah. Dogs have been around longer than veterinary medicine, and I doubt there's many wild animals that have membership in an HMO. Put another way, they've been doing fine for longer than we know. And for reasons we can only hope to discover. I let my own dogs lick any itches or wounds they have, and have yet to find something that hasn't healed as it should. I can't say the same for pets of relatives and friends who went the cone-head route.

      I could add something on how oral sex relates to the topic at hand, but instead I'll continue with Stuff I Learned About Dogs that similarly runs contrary to a veterinary advice, established wisdom, or published literature. I expect Science will catch up to this, as it will in other areas.

      1. Dogs don't need a lot of water. Unless you feed them a steady diet of dried corn meal packaged up as dog food.

      2. Dogs don't need or want a steady diet, and feeding your dog "table scraps" (aka "real food") doesn't cause upset and diarrhea. By comparison, if you eat nothing but Corn Flakes every day for 10 years, chances are an ordinary hamburger will cause problems.

      3. Dogs are creatures of habit, but seek out a change in regimen when possible. Don't feed your dog in a bowl. Hide the food around the house and make them search for it. Great fun. Even better, roll some soft-boiled eggs across the kitchen floor and let them catch their food. The expression on their face after that first bite is priceless.

      4. If given the opportunity, dogs will discover they enjoy fruits and many vegetables (green leafy stuff being the exception, and apples and tomatoes perennial favourites). The best food for dogs is pizza. Yeah, pizza. Pizza has lots of fat (more important than protein for any active dog), it's chewy (all dogs like to chew), and if there's lots of toppings, the scavenger instinct is satisfied. Best served warm, of course.

      Obviously, I have way too much free time on my hands. Maybe I can become a scientist.
      • by wobblie ( 191824 )
        the collar is to prevent chewing and biting, not licking. Most dogs will reopen wounds or otherwise irritate them unless they are restrained. It most likely has to do with a healing wound being itchy. However, it is most likely not neccessary most of the time, as you suggest.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Other people have already made some relevant points but I figured I'd add mine.
        Licking wounds is better than no treatment whatsoever, which is what dogs got prior to the invention of medicine.
        Medicine can be better than either no treatment *or* licking wounds.
        Evolution has given the dogs a set of responses; human ingenuity has come up with better ones, but the dogs still have their responses wired-in. Hence the satellite-dish-head.
        Conventional wisdom says that open wounds should be covered and slathered in
    • by Shaper_pmp ( 825142 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @09:26AM (#16836688)
      "There's a whole store of herb and animal lore that's been systematically quashed for decades (well, since the great witch hunts really), and science is only just getting round to looking at it now."

      Make that "a whole store of vague, sometimes contradictory waffle that only intermittently produces results with absolutely no theoretical underpinnings to explain why, how or when it works".

      And no-one's quashing anything - if you want to go out on the winter solstice and rub a badger on your varicose veins nobody's stopping you - just don't expect to be able to get it on the National Health Service (or private healthcare, for those countries without a functioning public healthcare system) without the slightest bit of scientific evidence that it's safe and it works.

      There are a lot of advances still to be (re-)discovered in traditional herbal and animal lore around the world - of this there is no doubt. Unfortunately there's also a whole load of dangerous horseshit dressed up as traditional lore too, so as a society we don't tend to give credence to a piece of lore until it's been scientifically tested (and ideally until we have some theory as to why it works).

      This isn't "quashing" or "destroying" anything - it's called being sensibly prudent. We observe an effect, study it and then use it when we're sure it's safe and effective.

      Recall that most of this "store of herbal and animal lore" was discovered by feeding patients a variety of random items and watching for the ones who didn't die horribly from an infection or allergic reaction.
    • Seriously, what follows isn't meant to start a flame war at all. I'm just curious...

      I notice a lot of times that when people see a behavior or physical feature in an organism, they begin stating the evolutionary reason it came about.

      Isn't this a case of stating some pretty big conjecture with a tone of voice normally reserved for more certain beliefs? I mean, sure licking wounds COULD have been evolutionarily preferred because of either of the two biological reasons stated (anti-germ vs. anti-pain), but h
    • Saliva contains tonnes of cool stuff. As another poster mentioned, it helps bacterial killing. It also has natural antiseptics and epithelial growth factors (i.e. skin growth encouragers) which speed up wound healing by promoting the migration of neighbouring skin cells to cover the wound.

      There's a bunch of other stuff too. The evolutionary steps to get these developed in conjunction with wound licking as an instinctive response to promote wounds healing are mind boggling and probably support creationism, a
  • how many people thought that said salvia [wikipedia.org]?
  • by Bazzargh ( 39195 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:30AM (#16836008)
    Sorry, it had to be said.
  • Sweet (Score:5, Funny)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:32AM (#16836020)
    I am going to claim saliva addiction and start snogging every good looking girl I see for the rest of the afternoon.
  • Why is an old Oliver Stone film on Slashdot?
  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:47AM (#16836094)
    Easy to synthesize.

    Made from saliva.

    Well, the "War on Drugs" is about to get interesting. Have you had you mouth drained by a government-approved suction center yet today? "Today the police knocked over another spit house..."

    (I know, I know, synthesize means they don't need actual saliva... just trying to be funny.)
  • Darn... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) *
    "Scientists say the molecule is simple and synthesis is expected to be simple."

    If it weren't for that students of the world could rejoice with a much less embarrassing way to pay for their university fees than sperm donation, they could've spat their way through uni!
  • Spit painkiller?
    Nifty thriller.
    Better still,
    The no-blood spiller.
    Burma Shave
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:53AM (#16836144)
    I understand they might be comparing relative potency, but comparing to THREE GRAMS of morphine is kinda excessive.

    300 mg morphine will render just about any human being unconscious and apnoeic pretty quickly.

    3000 mg will knock you out cold, stop you breathing, and drop your blood pressure precipitously, more or less instantaneously.

    In which sense, numerous things have have the same pain-killing effect as three grams of morphine.

    Being hit by a freight train, for instance.

  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @07:53AM (#16836146)
    They isolated a peptide which inhibits two enzymes that chew up enkephalins, the body's natural pain killers. Inhibiting these makes the naturally-released enkephalins hang around longer. The problem is that peptide drugs have a checkered history. See the article linked below.

    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/060586510 3v1 [pnas.org]
  • Well, one thing's for sure. As soon as this stuff is researched, someone will patent it. Let's see how far the patenting idiocy has grown by now. Are they gonna get the patent for the procedure or the patent on saliva?
    • by mgblst ( 80109 )
      They won't be able to patent it, but they will be able to patent the method the use to synthesize the molecule. They will be aiming for somethign that is quite complex to make, to increase the benefit of their product. They might even make a derivative, which is slightly different, but many a study will show has much better results.
  • 3 grams of morphine is about 100 times the maximum daily dose for a 70kg adult. The article even mentions that it was per kilo of body weight. Now that would be a huge dose. But nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if this actually makes it into anything useful for human use.
  • When we hurt ourselves there is a natural instinct to lick the wound so I'm not that surprised that there is a pain killer in saliva. The primary reason for licking a wound is to clean it but if there was a pain killer included as well that would increase the reason for licking the wound and, thus, probably increase the chance of survival of the animal. Natural selection would quickly select those animals that produced the pain killer.

  • "Come on, baby. I got a real bad groin injury today. Can't you help me with the pain?"
  • by Aryman ( 24308 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @08:40AM (#16836390) Homepage
    BBC got it right: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6142842.stm [bbc.co.uk]
  • So making out with a significant other helps you ignore some pain and keeps you from being depressed? I could have told you that!
  • .. so the next time my wife says she has a headache, I will have the perfect cure for it!!!
    • by BCW2 ( 168187 )
      Women would never accept that research.

      It would invalidate some basic truths:
      The difference between a paycheck and your dick - don't have to beg the wife to blow the check!
      The difference between a new wife and a new job - after 6 months the job still sucks!
  • It was also determined that saliva (esp that of women who have borne children) can also be used as hair gel, facial cleanser and stain remover.
  • So when my mom kissed the boo-boo better, it actually worked?

    Cool, I always thought so....
  • Unlikely proposition (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2@earthsh[ ]co.uk ['od.' in gap]> on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:01AM (#16836996)
    I find it doubtful that you could have an effective painkiller that wasn't usable recreationally.

    The human body's pain regulatory system is tightly bound up with a behaviour-rewarding system. Certain actions which are evolutionarily beneficial (to the species or the tribe, even if not to the individual) trigger a release of endorphins, the body's own homebrew morphine analogues which are also produced in response to pain. When an individual is not in pain, stimulation of the endorphin receptors produces a highly pleasurable sensation.

    Opiates such as morphine or heroin are chemically similar enough to endorphins to bind to the same receptors. This makes them good painkillers. It also makes them good ways to induce pleasurable sensations for recreational purposes.

    Beside any psychological effect (which may well be habit-forming in its own right), continued over-use of opiates can cause a reduction in the body's endorphin production. When the artificial painkillers wear off, the body is not ready with natural painkillers and so normal bodily functions produce heightened sensations -- the blood can be felt flowing through arteries, the ends of bones can be felt moving past one another, and so on. The exact manifestation of symptoms is a person-to-person variable. Most people find this state unbearable and so seek out more opiates rather than wait for the body's endorphin production to stabilise. This is physical dependence (the body cannot function normally without drugs). At £1 a breath, a heroin habit is not a cheap habit unless you are a rich rock star.

    Some people have found that they can naturally produce endorphins in more than sufficient quantities to mask pain, and actually deliberately harm themselves to trigger an endorphin release. (Gripping ice cubes tightly in the hands is one of the least-dangerous ways to cause temporary pain sensations and so trigger endorphin production, and is recommended by some agencies for persistent self-harm practitioners). Others have found that by deliberately performing (what they perceive to be) altruistic acts (such as helping an old lady across the road, whether or not she actually wants to cross the road), they can stimulate endorphin production.

    Unless the pain-relieving and pleasure-inducing properties of endorphins are separable, any painkiller that attempts to mimic their action will be both usable recreationally and doubly habit-forming.
  • Finally, science to back up the art of "kiss it to make it better".

    Love is the drug [lyricsfreak.com] for me!
  • that spitting on the sidewalk will now be prosecuted as "distribution of a controlled substance"....

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur