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Eur J Pain. 2017 Mar;21(3):456-465. doi: 10.1002/ejp.939. Epub 2016 Sep 15.

Epoxy fatty acids mediate analgesia in murine diabetic neuropathy.

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Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California Davis, USA.



Neuropathic pain is a debilitating condition with no adequate therapy. The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are established, however, the role of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in limiting pain has only recently been described and the mechanisms of this action remain unknown. DHA is metabolized into epoxydocosapentanoic acids (EDPs) via cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzymes which are substrates for the soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) enzyme. Here, we tested several hypotheses; first, that the antinociceptive action of DHA is mediated by the EDPs. Second, based on evidence that DHA and CYP450 metabolites elicit analgesia through opioid signalling, we investigated this as a possible mechanism of action. Third, we tested whether the analgesia mediated by epoxy fatty acids had similar rewarding effects as opioid analgesics.


We tested diabetic neuropathic wild-type and sEH null mice in a conditioned place preference assay for their response to EDPs, sEHI and antagonism of these treatments with naloxone, a mu-opioid receptor antagonist.


The EDPs and sEH inhibitors were efficacious against chronic pain, and naloxone antagonized the action of both EDPs and sEH inhibitors. Despite this antagonism, the sEH inhibitors lacked reward side effects differing from opioids.


The EpFA are analgesic against chronic pain differing from opioids which have limited efficacy in chronic conditions.


EDPs and sEHI mediate analgesia in modelled chronic pain and this analgesia is blocked by naloxone. However, unlike opioids, sEHI are highly effective in neuropathic pain models and importantly lack rewarding side effects.

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Conflict of interest statement

The University of California holds patents on the sEH inhibitors used in this study as well as their use to treat inflammation, inflammatory pain, and neuropathic pain. BD Hammock is a founder and K Wagner is an employee of EicOsis L.L.C., a startup company advancing sEH inhibitors into the clinic.

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