Painkiller in saliva

PainkillerA natural analgesic (painkiller) that is six times stronger than the opiate morphine has been found in human saliva.

In 2003, Catherine Rougeot and her colleagues at the Pasteur Institute identified a potent pain sensation inhibitor in rats they called sialorphin. The present work confirms the presence of a related compound in humans. The compound inhibits the same class of proteins as sialorphin.

The analgesic, termed opiorphin (someone not related to the research team registered domain name yesterday!) is a peptide with the amino acid sequence: tyrosine glutamine arginine phenylalanine serine arginine.

In rat studies, injections of opiorphin suppressed pain sensation for both chemical-induced inflammation and acute physical pain. In both cases, the administered dose of 1 mg/kg opiorphin provided the same painkilling power as 3-6 mg/kg of morphine.

The authors hope to next identify which physiological conditions trigger the natural release of opiorphin, but also note that the strong analgesic properties of opiorphin warrants potential exploration for clinical pain management. However, Rougeot cautions that it might not be developable as a conventional painkiller as the compound may also have anti-depressant activity.

I’m curious though, if spit has this potent painkiller why does it hurt so much when you accidentally bite your tongue?

The work is reported in this week’s issue of PNAS.


9 thoughts on “Painkiller in saliva

  1. Here is an idea that could answer, “I’m curious though, if spit has this potent painkiller why does it hurt so much when you accidentally bite your tongue?” When you accidentally bite your tongue, of course it would hurt because there are nerves there as well as everywhere else. Although, you would notice that as soon as any part of the interior of your mouth gets hurt, saliva with a weird “ting” to it builds up under your tongue. Believe it or not, if you were to put some of that saliva on the damaged area in your mouth, the pain goes away almost completely. Why don’t you all try it out. Simply bite on your tongue hard enough for it to hurt and the weird tasting saliva builds up under your tongue, almost in a little puddle. Then put the part of your tongue that you bit into it. What happened?

  2. No offense taken Kayo. I do take your point that a lot of promising research gets mentioned in the press and then there is no subsequent follow up, but that’s been going of for years. Someone’s always got something to promote and journalists have always got space to fill. Moreover, who’s to know at the time of writing that any given discovery won’t become truly the next big thing?

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