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There are two kinds of endomorphin: endomorphin-1 and endomorphin-2. Both are chemical substances found inside cells called neurons, which are the basic building blocks of the brain, nervous system, and spinal cord. Endomorphins affect several physical and mental functions, for example the perception of pain, reactions to stress, and cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive functions. These substances are endogenous, meaning they are produced by the body itself, and they are also opioid peptides, meaning they specifically work by binding to other substances called opioid receptors that are found mainly in the brain, spinal cord, and digestive system. Endomorphins are the subject of much research, and some scientists believe they can be used to develop various pharmaceutical drugs, including new painkillers, treatments for Alzheimer's disease, and anti-inflammatories.
There are several different endogenous opioid peptides, including endomorphins, endorphins, dynorphins, enkephalins, and beta-endorphins. In the body, different opioid peptides bind to different kinds of opioid receptors. There are three main types of opioid receptors that are called delta, kappa, and mu receptors. Endomorphins specifically bind to the mu receptors. The opioid peptides were first discovered by scientists in the 1970s, though endomorphins were not isolated and identified in the brains of mammals until later.
Endomorphin-1 is found in many different areas of the brain, while endomorphin-2 is found primarily in the spinal cord, the spleen, and the lower brainstem. Both substances affect the central nervous system, meaning the brain and the spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, meaning the nerves and nerve cells in the rest of the body. Scientific studies show that endomorphins are strongly linked to the body's ability to sense pain. This has spurred research focused on developing new types of analgesics, or painkillers, based on endomorphins. Other research has focused on the effects of endomorphins on the immune system, as well as on cardiovascular and gastrointestinal functions.
Research has indicated that endomorphins can be useful in the development of new drugs. For example, endomorphin-2 has shown some promise as a possible treatment for Alzheimer's disease, while some studies have indicated that endomorphin-1 can reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis. However, there are several difficulties with developing pharmaceutical drugs using endomorphins, and all medical research using these substances is experimental and preliminary. The difficulties include that endomorphins can cause addiction and serious breathing problems. Further, endomorphin-1 degrades quickly in the bloodstream, decreasing its effectiveness as a medical treatment.
I'm all for studies that are looking for ways to effectively treat or prevent Alzehimer's, as well as drugs that will help with arthritis pain. I know a little boy who is 9 who was diagnosed last year with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I would love to see this boy live a normal, pain-free life.
I wonder if the little girl I read about who cannot feel pain has a problem with her endomorphin production. It would make sense that she would, with a disorder that causes her not to feel pain. Research in this area might also lead to a treatment for her.
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