A mass of spinal nerve cells (green) includes the enzyme COX-2 (red).

In this image, a mass of spinal nerve cells (green) includes the enzyme COX-2 (red). Drugs called NSAIDs—including ibuprofen (such as Advil®) and naproxen (such as Aleve®)—relieve pain and inflammation in part by acting on COX-2. Scientists thought that NSAIDs with a "left-handed" molecular structure do the hard work by stopping COX-2 from making prostaglandins. On the downside, NSAIDs can increase the risk of gastrointestinal and possibly cardiovascular problems. A recent study revealed that right-handed NSAIDs may reduce pain by stopping COX-2 from breaking down natural painkillers called endocannabinoids. The finding could lead to effective new drugs that have fewer side effects. Read more... Link to external Web site

Featured in the October 20, 2011, issue of Biomedical Beat.

Learn more in the extended caption published on LiveScience Link to external Web site.