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Endomorphins offer novel treatment for chronic auto-inflammatory diseases

13 December 2007

Shining a light on the potential anti-inflammatory properties of natural endomorphins.

Working alongside Professor Reiner Straub’s clinical laboratory in Regensburg, Germany, Jessop used advanced techniques to show that low doses of endomorphins can significantly reduce inflammation.  Jessop used superfusion bathing to illustrate the effect, bathing irritated human tissue collected from knee transplants with the endomorphin treatments.  After immersing the tissues at different endomorphin dosages, Jessop went on to test the levels of cytokines in the solution.  Cytokines are produced in the body as part of infectious and inflammatory processes.  We would therefore expect to see high levels of cytokines in untreated, inflamed tissue samples.  Results showed a significant decline in these levels after treatment with endomorphins, proving that the tissue was less swollen.  It is believed that the endomorphins act by directly inhibiting cytokine production, so helping to bring down inflammation.

Jessop explains that in situations of short-lived, acute inflammation, naturally produced levels of endomorphin will act to our benefit.  However, he feels that his research has more to offer in helping with the treatment of chronic immune diseases of inflammation.  In these scenarios, a patient’s natural levels of endomorphins would not be able to work alone.  He suggests that a novel treatment or drug could involve a simple top-up of natural levels of endomorphin to match the cytokines head on.

Endomorphins cannot cause the common side effects of respiratory problems, depression, or addiction that are usually associated with long-term anti-inflammatory use

There are currently many drugs available within medicine for the treatment of auto-inflammatory diseases.  However, endomorphins offer a very attractive natural alternative due to their unique mode of action.  If endomorphins are applied directly to an inflamed joint or limb, they act in the area of need without getting into the body’s circulatory system.  In this way they are kept entirely separate from regions of the body that don’t need targeting.  An even better consequence is that they cannot cause the common side effects of respiratory problems, depression, or addiction that are usually associated with long-term anti-inflammatory use.  In addition, endomorphins offer a combined painkiller and anti-inflammatory, offering a much simpler and cheaper alternative to stacks of different pills.

Jessop hopes to continue his ground-breaking work with endomorphins, looking at more efficient delivery options to offer alongside their new drug.  For example, it has been noted that one problem with using proteins as medicines is that they are very easily broken down by the body’s enzymes.  If the drug was to stay in the system for some time to offer a long-term solution to chronic inflammation, it would need to be protected in some way.  One possible answer is the use of polymer beads which would encase the endomorphin dosage for controlled breakdown.

Speaking of the advantages endomorphins could offer to modern medicine, Jessop says:  “The potential for delivery of a low cost drug with both peripheral anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, effective in low doses and targeted to the site of inflammation, should focus our attention on further development of EM as potent therapeutic agents in chronic inflammation.”

Dr David Jessop/ Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience and Endocrinology  

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