Scientists at the University of Arizona have found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can relieve pain. This explains why some infected people do not experience severe symptoms, but are still able to spread the pathogen. An unexpected property of the virus that can be useful for anesthesia is reported in an article in the journal Pain.
Researchers believe that the pain relief effect is due to the S-protein, which allows the coronavirus to enter human cells. This compound also suppresses the transmission of signals associated with the formation of pain sensations. This is due to the fact that the S-protein binds not only to the ACE2 receptor, but also to neuropilin-1, a membrane protein in neurons.
Neuropilin-1 is also associated with vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A), which plays an important role in the development of blood vessels and is also associated with diseases such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. In this case, neuronal hyperexcitability occurs, leading to pain. S-protein binding has a similar effect.
In future studies, the scientists plan to explore how neuropilin-1 can be used to relieve pain with non-opioid drugs.