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J Neuroinflammation. 2019 May 21;16(1):100. doi: 10.1186/s12974-019-1480-x.

Morphine immunomodulation prolongs inflammatory and postoperative pain while the novel analgesic ZH853 accelerates recovery and protects against latent sensitization.

Author information

Brain Institute, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA, 70112, USA.
SE LA Veterans Health Care System, New Orleans, LA, 70119, USA.
Dept. of Medicine, Neuroscience Lab #8516, 1430 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, LA, 70112, USA.



Numerous studies have identified the proinflammatory, pronociceptive effects of morphine which ultimately exacerbate pain. Our novel endomorphin analog ZH853 does not produce proinflammatory effects on its own and gives potent, long-lasting analgesia. This study investigates whether ZH853's lack of interaction with the neuroimmune system reduces the risk of prolonged pain.


Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to one of two treatment paradigms. Either (1) chronic pain followed by chronic treatment with morphine, ZH853 or vehicle, or (2) chronic drug administered prior to pain induction. Complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) was injected or paw incision surgery was performed on the left hind plantar foot pad. Drugs were administered through Alzet osmotic minipumps at a rate of 1 μl/h for 5 days at appropriate doses based on prior experiments. Animals were tested for mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia using von Frey filaments and the Hargreaves apparatus, respectively. Additionally, several gait parameters were measured using the CatWalk XT. When all animals had recovered from pain, 1 mg/kg of naltrexone was administered to test for development of latent sensitization (LS). A second set of animals was used to investigate dorsal horn inflammation following CFA and drug treatment. ANOVAs were used to assess differences between drug treatment groups.


As expected, morphine increased and prolonged pain in all experiments compared to vehicle treatment. However, ZH853 treatment reduced the overall time spent in pain and the severity of pain scores compared to morphine. ZH853 not only reduced inflammation versus morphine treatment but also, in some instances, acted as an anti-inflammatory drug compared to vehicle treatment. Finally, ZH853 prevented the development of LS while vehicle- and morphine-treated animals showed robust relapse to pain.


ZH853 has a favorable side effect profile versus morphine and provides superior analgesia in a number of pain states. We now know that chronic use of this compound reduces time spent in a chronic pain state, the opposite of common opioids like morphine, and reduces the risk of LS, making ZH853 an excellent candidate for clinical development in humans for inflammatory and postoperative pain.


Chronic pain; Complete Freund’s adjuvant; Endomorphin; Inflammation; Latent sensitization; Microglia; Morphine; Opioid; Paw incision; pp38

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