Asian Scientist (Feb. 5, 2014) – A hormone that induces labor and encourages social bonding may hold the key to treating abdominal pain, according to a study led by Australian researchers.
In their study, the researchers developed a version of the hormone oxytocin to treat chronic abdominal pain associated with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. Oxytocin is known as ‘the love drug’ for its ability to enhance social interactions including maternal behaviour, partnership and bonding.
Professor Paul Alewood, senior author of the study published in Nature Communications, said the molecule they had developed – a version of oxytocin with improved stability – showed significant potential in alleviating abdominal pain.
“It can potentially survive in the digestive tract until it reaches the gut,” he said.
“This molecule acts on oxytocin nerve receptors in the bowel, which display increased sensitivity in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.”
The molecule had no effect on healthy gut tissue, which was an important advantage in drug development where minimising side effects is crucial.
Chronic abdominal pain is a major health problem, with irritable bowel syndrome alone affecting around 11 per cent of the Western population. Despite the high number of sufferers, there are currently no drugs that directly treat abdominal pain.
Source: University of Queensland; Photo: epSos.de/Flickr/CC.
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