A step toward safer opioids


Scientists are one step closer to creating opioids that relieve pain in a safer, more effective way, reports CNBC.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina and collaborators from around the world determined the structure of the activated kappa opioid receptor. They used that structure to design some new possible drugs that could treat pain without the harmful consequences of those on the market today.

Current opioids latch onto several receptors on the surface of cells. They relieve pain but also can trigger side effects like nausea, hallucinations and severe dependency. These drugs have been scrutinized for their safety and efficacy, as well as their role in fueling an epidemic that has ripped through the U.S.

The structure will be available for anyone, including drug companies and researchers, to download. They can use it to aid in computer-assisted drug discovery, a process that uses computers to screen up to 100 million compounds at once to find which compounds might bind to the receptor.

Researchers can run the process without having the structure, which they currently do, but they're essentially running blind without it. Having the structure will give scientists a map to work with when they run their tests.

Drug development and approval is a lengthy process, so it could be years before new pain treatments resulting from the research are available. (Source: CNBC)

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