Project Leader: Tiziano Bandiera, PhD
The natural cannabis-like substance, anandamide, is produced in injured tissues and activates specialized receptors on pain-sensing terminals, called cannabinoid receptors, which prevent the access of pain-carrying signals to the brain. Working with research groups in the USA and Italy, we identified compounds that selectively stop the degradation of anandamide, caused by the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), outside the brain. By doing so these compounds produce profound analgesic effects in animal models of pain. Indeed, even though fact these molecules do not enter the brain and spinal cord, their pain-killing actions are equal or superior to those of centrally active analgesics such as morphine. Because of their remarkable efficacy and favorable safety profile, these compounds have been advanced to preclinical development for post-operative and nociceptive pain.