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Coral compound fights chronic pain

Severe neuropathic pain can be controlled by a drug extracted from coral, according to research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

The compound, capnellene, is found in Capnella imbricata – a soft coral from Green Island, Taiwan – and has a molecular structure which is very different from other pain-relieving drugs.

Says Dr Zhi-Hong Wen at the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan: “There are few pharmacological agents that can help people suffering from neuropathic pain. But we believe that these marine-derived compounds might lead to the development of a new range of drugs of great potential.”

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His team has found that the chemical reverses hyperalgesia, which causes intense pain from normally mildly uncomfortable stimuli. It also dampens the effect of such stimuli on microglial cells, which surround nerve cells and release cytokine signalling chemicals that stimulate pain pathways to the brain.

The research is intended to discover new drugs that can act rapidly and have specific functions with low side effects in order to better manage chronic pain conditions.

Copyright Press Association 2009

British Journal of Pharmacology