Researchers have found a new class of compounds that may someday relive chronic pain in millions of people who suffer from diabetes.

"This discovery offers a promising new approach to controlling chronic pain in diabetics. We were initially looking at anti-inflammatory compounds which regulate a key branch of an inflammatory pathway. These compounds are highly selective and inhibit a key enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase. Inhibition of this enzyme successfully blocks pain sensations," said Bora Inceoglu, from the University of California, Davis, lead author of the study

Researchers say that this new class of drug blocked the pain caused by nerve damage. The study was conducted on animal models and it may take some time to reach human trials.

"It is still too early for these new compounds to reach the stores as analgesic drugs, since FDA approval takes a decade with very thorough evaluations. However, once the feasibility of this approach is demonstrated, hopefully a major hurdle in moving toward clinical application is overcome," Inceoglu said.

Researchers say that this new class of compounds works by blocking a key enzyme called soluble epoxide hydrolase. Many studies have shown how inhibiting this enzyme helps in lowering blood pressure and protects the kidney from damage.

"Our data indicate that this drug candidate is more effective on neuropathic pain caused by diabetes than any of the prescription drugs now on the market," said Bruce Hammock, co-author of the study.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 346 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes

According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention an estimated 25.8 million people in the United States (8.3% of the population) have diabetes. By 2050, 1 in 3 U.S. adults will have diabetes.

For the study, researchers looked at chronic pain in type 1 diabetes. In type 1d iabetes, the body does not produce insulin as opposed to type 2 diabetes, when the body produces insulin but the cells are unable to use it.

"Current medicines do not control well chronic pain produced by damage to the nerves. The study by Hammock and collaborators identifies a new class of chemical compounds that could change this situation. These compounds act by boosting natural signals, produced by the body, which curb both inflammation and pain. Exploiting the body's own 'medicines' is a great approach to creating safer medicines," said Professor Daniele Piomelli, director of drug discovery and development at UC Irvine. Piomelli was not involved in the present study.

"Almost half of advanced diabetic patients suffer from this painful condition which worsens as diabetes progresses," Inceoglu said.

These new compounds relive pain without any side-effects, researchers say.

"New medications will effectively increase the number of choices for patients and physicians in treating intractable pain. Our study shows that the novel approach is effective and may not lead to the known side effects of narcotics or anti-depressants," Hammock said.

The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.