Melbourne: There is new hope for drug addicts as Australian scientists claim to have made a discovery that could cure heroin and morphine addictions.
The discovery could lead to better pain relief without the risk of addiction to prescription drugs, while also helping heroin users kick the habit.
A team of Australian and international researchers have shown for the first time that blocking an immune receptor, called TLR4, stopped opioid cravings, Mark Hutchinson of University of Adelaide said.
"Both the central nervous system and the immune system play important roles in creating addiction, but our studies have shown we only need to block the immune response in the brain to prevent cravings for opioid drugs," Hutchinson said.
The team which worked with a team from the University of Colorado Boulder, used an existing drug to target and block the TLR4 receptor, AAP reported.
The report also suggests that the US based National Institutes on Drug Abuse was further developing the drug to test in clinical trials.
Hutchinson said this could lead to clinical trials on patients in next two or three years time.
The success of such trials would mean that opioid drugs used to treat acute pain could potentially be co-formulated with the additional drugs to limit the chance of addiction.
These patients generally needed larger doses of drugs like morphine to treat pain because their bodies have developed a higher tolerance.
Hutchinson said that co-formulated drugs would mean these patients could be given lower doses.
"It might make it much easier to treat those already addicted or tolerant populations," Hutchinson said.
The findings were published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience.