Intranasal Administration for Pain: Oxytocin and Other Polypeptides

Vimala N Bharadwaj, Alexander Z Tzabazis, Michael Klukinov, Neil A Manering, David C Yeomans


Pain, particularly chronic pain, remains one of the most debilitating and difficult-to-treat conditions in medicine. Chronic pain is difficult to treat, in part because it is associated with plastic changes in the peripheral and central nervous systems. Polypeptides are linear organic polymers that are highly selective molecules for neurotransmitter and other nervous system receptors sites, including those associated with pain and analgesia, and so have tremendous potential in pain therapeutics. However, delivery of polypeptides to the nervous system is largely limited due to rapid degradation within the peripheral circulation as well as the blood-brain barrier. One strategy that has been shown to be successful in nervous system deposition of polypeptides is intranasal (IN) delivery. In this narrative review, we discuss the delivery of polypeptides to the peripheral and central nervous systems following IN administration. We briefly discuss the mechanism of delivery via the nasal-cerebral pathway. We review recent studies that demonstrate that polypeptides such as oxytocin, delivered IN, not only reach key pain-modulating regions in the nervous system but, in doing so, evoke significant analgesic effects. IN administration of polypeptides has tremendous potential to provide a non-invasive, rapid and effective method of delivery to the nervous system for chronic pain treatment and management.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 16.07.2021


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