Red Orbit, by April Flowers ~ November 1, 2013

An international team of 22 scientists from 11 institutes, led by Professor Bazbek Davletov, of the University of Sheffield, has created and characterized a new molecule able to alleviate hypersensitivity to inflammatory pain.

The study, published in the journal Bioconjugate Chemistry, was conducted by Davletov and his team while he was at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

The researchers used elements of Clostridium botulinum (Botox) and Clostridium tetani neurotoxins (tetanus toxin) to develop a molecule with new biomedical properties – without unwanted toxic effects.

The Botox element blocks neuronal communication, which carry pain signals, for months. The tetanus toxins, in contrast, target the central nervous system very effectively. Combining the two elements holds exciting implications for neuroscience, with applications for the treatment of several neurological disorders – especially chronic pain conditions and epilepsy.

For clinical applications, Botox and tetanus neurotoxins hold great promise. Until now, however, their paralytic activity was a stumbling block. The newly engineered molecule is a potent non-paralyzing neuronal blocker, according to the study. Dr. Enrico Ferrari at the University of Lincoln and Professor Stephen Hunt at University College London conducted preclinical studies that indicate usefulness for the new molecule for alleviation of inflammatory pain.

Professor Davletov added, “Currently painkillers relieve lingering pain only temporarily and often have unwanted side effects. A single injection of the new molecule at the site of pain could potentially relieve pain for many months in humans and this now needs to be tested. We hope that the engineered molecule could improve the quality of life for those people who suffer from chronic pain. We are now negotiating transfer of the technology to a major pharmaceutical company.”

Davletov and his team at the Department of Biomedical Science are currently working on neuronal blocks tailored for various neurological conditions, as well as developing new cancer drugs.