Blis­ter­ing hot chem­i­cal could hold se­cret to con­trol­ling chronic pain

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers Asides & Insides -

Resinifer­a­toxin is a hot topic among those look­ing for opi­oid al­ter­na­tives. How hot? It scores 16 bil­lion units on the Scov­ille scale that mea­sures the hot­ness of pep­pers and spicy food. That makes resinifer­a­toxin, also known as RTX, 10,000 times hot­ter than the hottest known pep­per, the Carolina reaper.

RTX, which is found in a flow­er­ing cac­tus-like plant na­tive to Morocco known as Euphor­bia resinifera or resin spurge, is not only fiery, it’s ac­cu­rate. It can tar­get and de­stroy nerve end­ings for pain, and for pain only.

Un­like opi­ates, the chem­i­cal only at­taches to a painsens­ing mol­e­cule called TRPV1. This means, if you have a pain in your toe, RTX wouldn’t numb your en­tire foot.

“RTX di­rectly in­ter­acts with af­fer­ent nerve cells with­out af­fect­ing sen­sa­tions such as touch, pres­sure, acute prick­ling pain, vi­bra­tion sense or mus­cle co­or­di­na­tion func­tion. RTX can po­ten­tially help pa­tients with ter­mi­nal can­cer pain, af­ter a sin­gle epidu­ral in­jec­tion,” ac­cord­ing to Sor­rento Ther­a­peu­tics, which has an RTX drug in clin­i­cal tri­als.

When tested on dogs, pain sub­sided for an av­er­age of five months. The Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health is con­duct­ing tri­als on bone can­cer pa­tients with RTX as a painkiller.

“For many of the can­cer pa­tients, we need to have the drug re­move pain from a lot of dif­fer­ent re­gions. So we give it into a com­part­ment where the nerves to the lower half of the body are gath­ered to­gether,” the NIH’s Michael Iadarola told Wired. ●

ISTOCK PHOTO

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