Ever wondered why dogs or cats lick their wounds or when they get hurt? You might think they’re stupid but maybe, just maybe there’s something more to it.
First let’s talk about how your body senses pain. When you stub your toe on something, your body’s pain receptors are activated which release chemicals. These chemicals carry the “pain message” and go up the spinal cord directly to your brain making you say “Ouch!” giving you a sensation of pain.
Your body has something called enkephalins found in your pituitary gland, brain, and GI tract. They are chemicals released by neurons in the central nervous system which have painkilling effects. Enkephalins activate opiate receptors that block pain signals from reaching your brain. These enkephalins are destroyed when there is a pain response for example stubbing your toe.
Now what does this have to do with the saliva in your mouth? Your saliva has something called opiorphin which is a compound that stops the break down of enkephalins. So if there’s no break down of enkephalins, the opiate receptors will stay activated, and if they stay activated, there will be no “pain signals” reaching your brain and you can stub that toe as many times as you want without feeling anything.
The team from the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, led by Catherine Rougeot conducted an experiment where some lab rats where injected with opiorphin and some with morphine and then made to walk over upended needles(the needles were not sharp enough to cut the rats….in case you were wondering). They found that the rats needed 6 times more morphine than opiorphin to render them oblivious to the pain of standing on upended needle points. SIX TIMES! That’s a whole lot of morphine.
Not to mention morphine is an addictive drug and opiorphin isn’t. Besides pain killing, opiorphin may also have anti-depressing effects. It’s also not a very complex compound which means it could be synthesized in the lab.
Though opiorphin is still under testing and more research is being conducted, it looks like a promising solution to replace morphine or other pain killers.
Now just because your saliva has a painkilling substance, that does not mean you go spitting on every wound you get. Remember that opiorphin is ISOLATED from your spit and then used. Your saliva and mouth have plenty of other things like germs in them that could make the wound worse. But if you don’t have a choice, SPIT AWAY!!
Any other topic you’d like to discuss? Ask it in the comments:)
Your Science Owl
References (Thanks you’ll):