Researchers have discovered one of the strange side effects of the new coronavirus,media BGR reported. The pathogen inhibits a protein involved in pain signaling and effectively acts as an analgesic. The hedgehog glycoprotein used by viruses to infect cells can also be combined with a pain-mediated protein called neuroprotein-1. This process explains why some COVID-19 patients do not feel any pain in the fight against the disease.
The study could have a major impact on future painkillers, helping researchers fight a different health crisis: the opioid crisis.
Pain is a clever defense mechanism in the body. It can be annoying, but pain is a direct sign of danger that requires attention. Pain mechanisms are a reminder of the need for action. Pain is also included in the symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Whether it’s a headache or a muscle soreness, it’s a version of pain that tells people something’s wrong. But it turns out that the SARS-CoV-2 component used to infect cells can also bind to a key protein in pain signaling. It’s the virus’s hedgehog glycoprotein, and scientists are doing their best to meso-toned it with vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and other antiviral drugs.
Researchers at the University of Arizona’s School of Health Sciences published a study in the journal Pain that explains how viruses interfere with pain pathways.
“It makes sense to me, and maybe the reason for coVID-19’s relentless spread is that in the early stages, you walk around very well, as if it’s okay, because your pain has been suppressed,” Dr. Rajesh Khanna told NewScienceNews.
The researchers note earlier studies that said SARS-CoV-2 pythons bind to neuroprotein-1 in addition to the ACE2 binders used to infect cells.
“This caught our attention because for the past 15 years my lab has been studying complex proteins and pathways associated with pain processing, downstream of neuropirine,” Khanna said. “So we took a step back and realized that this could mean that maybe the pyrethrin was involved in some kind of pain treatment.”
Scientists are aware that hedgehog glycoprotein interacts with a specific pain pathway. A protein called vascular endosthort growth factor-A (VEGF-A) is associated with neuroprotein-1, a process that eventually leads to pain symptoms. But if SARS-CoV-2 blocks the neuropiskin-1 complex, a series of events that usually cause pain are blocked.
Experiments conducted by scientists have shown that the hedgehog glycoprotein binds to neuropilin-1 in the same position as VEGF-A. Their experiment used VEGF-A to trigger neuron excitability in rodents, leading to pain. They then added the SARS-CoV-2 protein. “The hedgehog glycoprotein completely reverses the pain signals induced by VEGF,” Dr. Khanna said. “It doesn’t matter whether we use very high doses of hedgehog glycoprotein or very low doses of hedgehog glycoprotein — it completely reverses the pain.”
Like other COVID-19 studies, the University of Arizona study could certainly benefit from more. But if these conclusions are accurate, then we may finally know why some people do not have pain-related symptoms when they are struggling with COVID-19 infection.
More interestingly, this COVID-19 conclusion may lead to new findings of pain relief for other chronic pain disorders. The researchers plan to design small molecules that block neuroprotease, “especially natural compounds, that may be important for pain relief,” Khanna said. “We’re facing an epidemic, we’re facing an opioid epidemic. They are colliding. Our findings have a huge impact on both. SARS-CoV-2 is teaching us about the spread of the virus, but COVID-19 also makes us think of neuroprotease as a new non-opioid method to combat the opioid epidemic. “