Proper management of pain is an especially hot topic in medicine right now. Unfortunately, physicians can do more harm than good if they get their patients addicted to pain meds while trying to control their legitimate symptoms. Not to mention that pesky suppression of respiratory drive when taken with shots of grey-goose vodka. Luckily, a dedicated undergraduate (yes, I said undergraduate!) researcher at BYU may have found a compound that has all the pain controlling power and none of the addictive tendencies.
Brigham Young University chemists hope that a synthetic compound they created that is similar to the molecular structure of morphine will have painkilling properties without the drug’s addictive quality.
The researchers, led by undergraduate Spencer Jones and advised by Steven Castle, assistant professor of chemistry, created a mirror-image version of a molecule from the Japanese tape vine. That new synthetic molecule is very similar to the molecule for morphine. Now they’re making more of the compound so it can be sent to the National Institutes of Health, which will check to see if it does, indeed, have painkilling properties, as they suspect.
Japanese tape vine, or Stephania japonica, from which they derived their Hasubanonine compound, is found in Australia on the outskirts of rain forests. Japanese scientists had already isolated the Hasubanonine molecule from the plant. How the BYU team, in turn, created the synthetic version of the molecule is outlined in the most recent issue of “Organic Letters.” Castle, Jones and postdoctoral researcher Liwen He co-wrote the article.