Opiates like morphine and codeine provide many patients with relief: from the ache felt after mild surgery to chronic pain experienced by cancer patients. However, this type of medication can cause multiple side effects and can lead to physical dependency with long-term use. Improving pain medication would help millions of people to have a better quality of life.
Dr. Ken Ng, a professor at the University of Windsor and adjunct professor at the University of Calgary (UCalgary), and Sam Carr, a PhD student from UCalgary, have been working with Dr. Peter Facchini’s group at UCalgary to better understand how natural opiates are produced. The team has narrowed their focus on one enzyme in the last stage of opiate assembly, a process that occurs naturally in the poppy plant.
“Imagine this sort of like an assembly line,” Carr said. “There are a lot of different steps in this specific pathway, and each enzyme contributes a different step from the starting product to the finished drug.”
Read more on the Canadian Light Source (CLS) website
Image: Structure of the enzyme studied, a molecule of codeine, and a seed capsule from an opium poppy.
Credit: Sam Carr.