When researchers blocked FKBP51 proteins, light blue in mouse spinal cord tissue above, pain was alleviated in the mice. Photo by Dr. Sandrine Géranton/University College London
LONDON, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A drug developed to regulate stress for mood disorder patients also stopped the symptoms of chronic pain in mice, researchers report in a recent study.
The compound, SAFit2, blocked chronic pain in the mice without also affecting their normal pain responses, researchers at University College London found.
SAFit2 is designed to block the stress protein FKBP51, which is linked to psychiatric disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Previous studies have shown that people with specific variations of FKBP51 also feel more physical pain after trauma.
"The compound was designed to have positive effects on mental health, but we have discovered that it also has significant benefits for physical pain syndromes," said Dr. Sandrine Géranton, a cell and developmental biology researcher at University College London, in a press release.
Researchers gave mice the drug, selectively blocking FKBP51 in the rodents' spinal cords, finding it alleviated chronic pain while not affecting their ability to feel pain.
The researchers also reported injuries can trigger changes that lead to increased production of FKBP51, which contributes to basic pain response, stress, and the development of chronic pain.
"Who wouldn't want a treatment that relieves chronic pain while also making you less stressed?" Géranton said. "This was an experimental study with mice, but if this could be successfully translated into a treatment for patients, it would be a win-win."
The study is published in Science Translational Medicine.