UC Irvine and Italian researchers have discovered a new means of enhancing the effects of anandamide – a natural, marijuana-like chemical in the body that provides pain relief.
Led by Daniele Piomelli, UCI's Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences, the team identified an "escort" protein in brain cells that transports anandamide to sites within the cell where enzymes break it down. They found that blocking this protein – called FLAT – increases anandamide's potency.
Previous work by the researchers indicates that compounds boosting anandamide's natural abilities could form the basis of pain medications that don't produce sedation, addiction or other central nervous system side effects common with existing painkillers, such as opiates.
"These findings raise hope that the analgesic properties of marijuana can be harnessed for new, safe drugs," said Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology. "Specific drug compounds we are creating that amplify the actions of natural, marijuana-like chemicals are showing great promise."
For the study, which appears in the Nov. 20 online version of Nature Neuroscience, he and his colleagues used computational methods to understand how FLAT binds with anandamide and escorts it to cell sites to be degraded by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) enzymes.
Anandamide has been dubbed "the bliss molecule" for its similarities to the active ingredient in marijuana. A neurotransmitter that's part of the body's endocannabinoid system, it's been shown in studies by Piomelli and others to play analgesic, antianxiety and antidepressant roles. It's also important in regulating food consumption. Blocking FAAH activity enhances several effects of anandamide without generating the "high" seen with marijuana.
Piomelli and his collaborators speculate that inhibiting FLAT (FAAH-like anandamide transporters) might be particularly useful in controlling certain forms of pain – that caused by damage to the central nervous system, for example – and curbing addiction to such drugs as nicotine and cocaine.
Researchers from UCI, Italy's University of Parma and University of Bologna, and the Italian Institute of Technology participated in the study, which was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, and the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County's largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.2 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.
News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.
UCI maintains an online directory of faculty available as experts to the media. To access, visit www.today.uci.edu/experts. For UCI breaking news, visit www.zotwire.uci.edu.
Tom Vasich | EurekAlert!
Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh
Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences