Administering the compound causes the body to simultaneously send a signal inhibiting and relieving pain and a second signal extinguishing its source, according to the researchers.
Dr. Rafał Wieczorek, a member of the research team, said: "This is a huge advantage over previously known painkillers because they all work in either one way or the other, while none of them works both ways at the same time."
The compound is a peptidomimetic; one part of the molecule affects opioid receptors, which causes pain relief, while the other part acts on the melanocortin 4 receptor, which is responsible for sending a signal initiating pain, according to the researchers.
They say the substance could be used in neuropathic pain relief, acute trauma or palliative treatment. Currently used opioids, such as morphine, effectively relieve pain, but show addictive properties and have severe side effects.
The new substance can be used at a concentration several thousand times smaller than morphine to eliminate pain completely even if it is the result of damaged or irritated nerves, the university said.
The research team is working on the first phase of clinical trials, while planning to seek patent protection for the medicine in Poland and selected other countries around the world.