PolyMorphine provides extended analgesic-like effects in mice with spared nerve injury



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Molecular Pain




conditioned place preference, morphine polymers, PolyMorphine, spared nerve injury, von Frey testing


Morphine is a well-characterized and effective analgesic commonly used to provide pain relief to patients suffering from both acute and chronic pain conditions. Despite its widespread use and effectiveness, one of the major drawbacks of morphine is its relatively short half-life of approximately 4 h. This short half-life often necessitates multiple administrations of the drug each day, which may contribute to both dependence and tolerance to morphine. Here, we tested the analgesic properties of a new polymer form of morphine known as PolyMorphine. This polymer has monomeric units of morphine incorporated into a poly(anhydride-ester) backbone that has been shown to hydrolyze into free morphine in vitro. Using an animal model of chronic pain, the spared nerve injury surgery, we showed that PolyMorphine is able to block spared nerve injury-induced hypersensitivity in mice for up to 24-h post-administration. Free morphine was shown to only block spared nerve injury-induced hypersensitivity for up to 2-h post-injection. PolyMorphine was also shown to act through the mu opioid receptor due to the ability of naloxone (a mu opioid receptor antagonist) to block PolyMorphine-induced analgesia in spared nerve injury animals pretreated with PolyMorphine. Additionally, we observed that PolyMorphine causes similar locomotor and constipation side effects as free morphine. Finally, we investigated if PolyMorphine had any effects in a non-evoked pain assay, conditioned place preference. Pretreatment of spared nerve injury mice with PolyMorphine blocked the development of conditioned place preference for 2-methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)pyridine (MPEP), a short-lasting mGluR5 antagonist with analgesic-like properties. Free morphine does not block the development of preference for MPEP, suggesting that PolyMorphine has longer lasting analgesic effects compared to free morphine. Together, these data show that PolyMorphine has the potential to provide analgesia for significantly longer than free morphine while likely working through the same receptor.

Open Access