Chili peppers may prove helpful in treating migraine headaches
SAN FRANCISCO — Chili peppers and migraines have traits in common — a fact scientists are exploiting to develop drugs capable of preventing the debilitating headache's painful symptoms.
The link between how skin reacts when rubbed with chili oil and what happens in the brain during a migraine has attracted the world's largest biotechnology company, Amgen Inc., and other companies seeking to formulate medicines for the more than 36 million Americans who have migraines.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness and sensitivity to touch, yet treatment options are limited. Some pharmaceutical companies that have tried recently to develop migraine therapies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Merck & Co., have abandoned their efforts, while the few drugs on the market are ineffective for many people and carry the danger of serious side effects for those at risk of heat attack or stroke.
“Migraines are an extremely common disorder, and it affects people really in the prime of their lives,” said Rob Lenz, who is leading Amgen's migraine drug development.
Still, no drugs have been “developed specifically for the treatment of migraines,” Lenz said. “They were developed as anti-epileptics, or blood pressure-lowering agents.”
That may soon change. Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and other biotechnology companies such as Alder Biopharmaceuticals Inc., Arteaus Therapeutics, and Labrys Biologics Inc. are targeting a chemical released during a migraine that carries a “pain” signal from nerve to nerve. By blocking a receptor from receiving the message, these companies aim to develop drugs that cut off migraines before symptoms start.
Similar pain signal transmission occurs when chili oil touches the skin. In that situation, the capsaicin in the pepper causes the body to release calcitonin gene-related peptides, or CGRP, leading to an increase in blood flow to the affected area.
To show the Amgen drug works, researchers injected it under the skin of patients who had chili oil on their skin. The therapy blocked the CGRP that causes increased blood flow.
“It sounds simple, but it's important — it tells us that our drug is getting into the body in relative concentrations that are generally well tolerated and that block CGRP,” Lenz said.
The new class of drugs under development are biologics, often delivered by injection, and are more complex, targeted and longer-lasting in the body than the earlier failed attempts, Lenz said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 6 narcotics officers charged with racketeering
- NYC police unions lose bid in stop-and-frisk case
- House’s vote to sue Obama is historic foray into checks, balances
- Law enforcement, intelligence agencies want to ‘like’ you on social media
- Senate report to question detention, interrogation practices, secrecy at CIA after 9/11
- IRS calls right-wing Republicans ‘crazies’ in emails
- Ground Zero ship dated to 1773
- Flat-out ‘miracle’ spares women on railroad span