• Boston Children's researchers believe toxic fish could help solve opioid epidemic

    By: Drew Karedes


    BOSTON - Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have been studying a potential breakthrough in the fight to end the opioid epidemic. 

    For the first time, toxins from pufferfish have been used as a painkiller in test labs.

    "If you never get prescribed to opioids you don’t use them. If you don’t use them you don’t get addicted," said Dr. Daniel Kohane, Boston Children's. 

    Kohane is the lead researcher of what could be a breakthrough study with a pivotal piece relying on poison found in the pufferfish. 

    "Tetrodotoxin comes from a variety of sources… most famously from the pufferfish," said Kohane. "It is really really powerful. That power is also what makes it toxic if you don't use it right."

    But researchers say tetrodotoxin in the right amounts can relieve pain by blocking the sodium channels that conduct pain messages.

    The revelation, Kohane says, has taken 20 years to reach.

    Through testing tetrodotoxin on rats, he says his research team has found it could one day serve as a new anesthetic and a potential alternative to opioids.

    "It’s injected locally and the patients when suffering from pain may not need to use opioids," said Boston Children's Research Fellow Andong Liu.

    Controlling pain at the source, these research pioneers say could mean a nerve block lasting several days, possibly weeks.

    "On the longer end maybe could help with cancer pain," said Kohane. "If we control the pain at the source, it would make it unnecessary for people to be prescribed opioids."

    Boston Children’s researchers have applied for a patent which they believe could take several years to be granted.

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