Tag Archives | morphine

How A Single Yeast Cell Can Cook Up Morphine From Scratch

The economics of home brewed heroin must have drug lords quaking in their boots. This is worse than Walter White! The New Yorker looks at how a single yeast cell can cook up morphine from scratch:

For as long as humans have been farmers, we have been drinkers. Wild yeast was the first microorganism that we domesticated, more than ten millennia ago. But archaeologists believe that we have been harvesting the gum of opium poppies for even longer. Across a broad swath of the Middle East and Asia, our ancestors tapped, dried, boiled, and consumed the poppy pod’s sticky secretions. The flower provided one of the first medicinal substances known to humanity, as well as a potent high. But not even the Romantic poets, ensconced in their stately pleasure-domes and out of their minds on smack, could have imagined what a paper published today in the journal Nature Chemical Biology describes: turning yeast, a simple fungus, into a narcotics lab to rival the poppy.

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Heroin Addicts: Powerless to a Flower

Opium Poppy:  Papaver somniferum

Opium Poppy: Papaver somniferum

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was written by a contributor. It examines substance addiction, a controversial topic. No endorsement is implied by its publication. The Disinformation Company encourages you to speak with your medical provider(s) regarding this or any other health-related topic.

An old drinking buddy of mine overdosed on heroin recently. He moved out to the Pacific Northwest to skate or die, and wound up doing both, joining a hundred other Americans who go out that way every day. I hadn’t seen or thought about him in years, but by coincidence, I was in town when he passed. A mutual friend told me there would be a memorial at a local skate park. I stopped by to pay my respects.

I found a bundle of droopy balloons hovering over beer can tabs, a condom wrapper, and a melted candle. Mourners had written dedications all over the squeaky balloon skins.… Read the rest

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The Snake Venom That’s Better Than Morphine

Black mamba (1)One wonders what a Black Mamba high might be like (although the story seems to suggest there might not be one) … from BBC News:

A painkiller as powerful as morphine, but without most of the side-effects, has been found in the deadly venom of the black mamba, say French scientists.

The predator, which uses neurotoxins to paralyse and kill small animals, is one of the fastest and most dangerous snakes in Africa.

However, tests on mice, reported in the journal Nature, showed its venom also contained a potent painkiller.

They admit to being completely baffled about why the mamba would produce it.

The researchers looked at venom from 50 species before they found the black mamba’s pain-killing proteins – called mambalgins.

Dr Eric Lingueglia, from the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology near Nice, told the BBC: “When it was tested in mice, the analgesia was as strong as morphine, but you don’t have most of the side-effects.”

Morphine acts on the opioid pathway in the brain.

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Could Scorpion Venom Make a Safe Alternative to Morphine?

I'm starting an urban scorpion farm, just to get in on the the action: by Clay Dillow for popsci.com
Scorpion venom and intense pain generally go hand in hand, but a group of researchers at Tel Aviv University are rethinking that relationship, using a better understanding of the peptide toxins found in scorpions' pain-inducing payloads to create a breed of non-addictive, side effect-free painkillers. Pain is communicated to the brain via a certain type of sodium channel embedded in our nervous and muscular systems. Understanding the way these sodium channels convey the sensation of pain from certain parts of the body to the brain is key to manipulating these signals to reduce or eliminate feelings of pain. Figure out how to manipulate those mechanisms, and we could be on the way to a much less painful future. Luckily for us, scorpions -- friendly little critters that they are -- have spent the past few million years evolving sophisticated toxins that can really turn up the level of excruciation. By modifying those same molecules, researchers believe they can customize compounds that are highly effective at numbing specific kinds of pain in specific parts of the body. What's more, because these compounds are natural and tailor-tweaked, they can be engineered to perform without side effects like addiction or the state of lovely but intoxicating loopiness induced by other painkilling compounds like morphine. Therein lies the benefit, of course; anyone who's had wisdom teeth pulled or dealt with a serious ligament tear knows that a bottle of conventional pain meds can get the job done, but the side effects can be mentally impairing and even dangerous should one become chemically dependent. With bio-mimicking pain compounds, doctors could treat chronic discomfort without fearing that patients might end up in the streets trying to score that next hit of scorpion.
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