A team of researchers from the Zuse Institute Berlin and Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin have an improved view on pain medication. Their new generation of pain medications was developed by creating new opioids using computer simulations. These opioids will work only at sites of inflammation or affected by injury. The gut- and brain-related side effects can be prevented by these improved drugs which proved their success in preclinical studies.
Further information regarding the drug
Opioids are known for their powerful ability to relieve pain. It treats the pain coming from tissue inflammation and damage caused by cancer or surgery. These opioids induce some side effects such as nausea, dependency, drowsiness, constipation and sometimes, respiratory arrest. Prof. Dr. Christoph Stein is the leader of the research team and activates in the Department of Anesthesiology and Surgical Intensive Care Medicine on Campus Benjamin Franklin. They aim to come up with new pain medications that would not produce such side effects while working even more efficiently. The team developed two new opioids using computer simulations in collaboration with PD Dr. Marcus Weber of the Zuse Institute Berlin. The started molecule of the project was fentanyl in both cases.
How does the drug work?
A hypothesis of the team would have been that damaged or inflamed tissue show a more significant interaction between the opioid agonists ( the substances known for eliciting the pain-relieving effect) and the opioid receptor which they bind to. The causes behind the acidic conditions were discovered using the computer simulations which shows that they are due to the lower pH values compared to the healthy tissues that lead from the inflamed tissues’ increased concentration of protons. Before activating and binding to the opioid receptors, the opioid molecules must be protonated.
The researchers aim to make these drugs available for patients after further testing and get to understand better the molecular processes behind the inflamed tissues.