Did you ever know you’ve been walking around with a mouth full of extremely powerful, untested pharmaceuticals?
Right there, yes!
Your saliva contains opiorphin, a painkiller that’s about six times more powerful than morphine.
French researchers say they’ve discovered a natural painkiller in human saliva that’s several times more potent than morphine used in animal studies.
The researchers have named the pain inhibitor opiorphin, because it acts on the same pathways as morphine and other opiate painkillers. The finding could lead to improved pain medications because opiorphin is a naturally occurring molecule that is quickly metabolized, according to a report by researchers at the Pasteur Institute, in Paris.
Not much is known as yet about opiorphin, said study author Dr. Catherine Rougeot, director of the institute’s Laboratory of Pharmacology of Neuroendocrine Regulation.
“We found it in saliva, that was the first step,” she said. “Now, we are exploring its presence in other human biological tissues. Maybe it is localized in the blood, the brain. Now, I cannot answer.”
It’s not even known where in the body the substance is produced, Rougeot added.
“We need more information to answer this question. Now, we need to characterize its function at physiological levels and learn by which tissues it is produced,” she added.
The discovery was made after the researchers identified a powerful pain-inhibiting molecule in rats. Their search for a similar molecule in humans turned up opiorphin. In rat studies, injections of 1 milligram of opiorphin per kilogram of body weight equaled the painkilling power of 3 to 6 milligrams of morphine per kilogram.
Opiorphin was equally effective against chemical-induced inflammation and acute physical pain.