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Salvia Targets Opioid Pain Receptor

Written by Eliza Player on Wednesday, 04 April 2012. Posted in From Professionals

Salvia Targets Opioid Pain Receptor

The discovery of how salvia acts on the brain could lead to new avenues for treating drug addiction, chronic pain, and depression.  According to, at the molecular level, drugs like salvia work by activating specific proteins, known as receptors, in the human brain and body.  It is unusual that salvia acts on only one receptor in the brain, known as the kappa opioid receptor(KOR).  Scientists know of four distinct opiate receptors, but until now the structure of the KOR and how it interacts with drugs was a mystery.  Beth Roth, professor of pharmacology at UNC, said, “Once we see the structure of the receptor, it becomes easier for us to develop drugs that target the receptor in ways that might be beneficial for medical therapy.  Drugs that block this receptor are potentially useful for treating a number of serious illnesses including chronic pain, cocaine addiction, and other diseases.”

The KOR is responsible for the action of drugs that affects human consciousness, awareness of pain and mood.  Salvia is the only thing that binds to this receptor, that we know of.  This finding could help scientists design medicines that either activate or block KOR to benefit patients.  The research also resolves a long standing debate about how drugs bind to this receptor.  Compared to other receptors, the binding site of KOR is huge, allowing drugs to bind to it in more than one way.  This research could also help scientists develop drugs that activate KOR in the body without affecting the brain, which could be useful in treating a number of illnesses.

Image courtesy of C. Hazlett/Wikipedia Commons.

About the Author

Eliza Player

Eliza Player

I have been writing as long as I can remember, even carrying tattered notebooks with me through the streets and strip clubs of New Orleans, in the midst of my heroin addiction. I lived a life saturated in heroin until Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, leaving me to fend for myself, eventually facing my demons and coming face to face with my addiction. I have been clean for five years, and since then I have become a mother, graduated college, and started a writing career. I have a B.A. in Mass Media Communication, with a minor in Journalism. I have also written one published book, Through Both Hell and High Water: A Memoir of Addiction and Hurricane Katrina, which tells the story of those dark days I spent in New Orleans after the storm, battling with addiction amidst a natural disaster. I am the blogger and news curator for RecoveryNowTV, and I love sharing the stories of the world, as well as my own personal journey, with my readers. I hope that my words can touch others out there, struggling with addiction.

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