Resolvins, inflammation and pain


Chronic inflammation plays a key role in the origin of numerous health disorders: local acute inflammation happens as a protective mechanism in response to injuries or infections and involves mechanisms targeted to its resolution (to its end) and the wound healing process, but if these mechanisms are impaired, chronic inflammation occurs. While acute inflammation is a necessary response of the immune system to fight against infection and to repair tissues, chronic inflammation is detrimental to health.

In the resolution of inflammation are involved several families of molecules that are collectively termed as “specialized pro-resolving mediators”. Most of these families are derived from omega-3 fatty acids: resolvins (derived from EPA and DHA), protectins and maresins (both derived from DHA). The resolution of acute inflammation is a mechanism of self-limitation that return inflamed tissues to their pre-inflammatory states, and in this process, specialized pro-resolving mediators act as orchestra conductors, directing the resolution of inflammation, as well as musicians, making it possible.

In many disorders, inflammation is closely linked to pain. Because of that, the action of some drugs with analgesic effects (for example, anti-inflammatories) is based on the idea that to eliminate pain it is necessary to suppress or remove inflammation, its cause. Nowadays, there are many analgesics available for relieving pain, including some that were originally developed for other purposes, but all of them have some disadvantage in terms of efficacy, safety or adverse effects. That is why the search for new analgesics does not cease.

Pain caused by chronic inflammation is also affected by the actions of resolvins; these specialized pro-resolving mediators have analgesic effects, which are thought in part independents of the resolution of inflammation. The underlying mechanisms of such analgesic effects are complex, and more research is still required to understand them completely, but a characteristic of resolvins should be noted: they do not alter thresholds for normal pain despite their high efficacy and potency as analgesics (which is not the case with some classic analgesic drugs), and, in addition, they have practically no adverse effects.

In several studies, resolvin administration has reduced different types of pain, but for the moment it is difficult to anticipate which types of pain will best respond to analgesic effects of resolvin treatment. Future studies will provide the answers.


Sommer C, Birklein F. Resolvins and inflammatory pain. F1000 Med Rep. 2011;3:19.

Yoo S, Lim JY, Hwang SW. Resolvins: Endogenously-Generated Potent Painkilling Substances and their Therapeutic Perspectives. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2013;11(6):664-76.

Lim JY, Park CK, Hwang SW. Biological Roles of resolvins and related substances in the resolution of pain. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:830930.



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