NOV 27, 2019 8:51 AM PST

New Painkiller More Effective than Opioids Discovered in Mud

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers have discovered a new painkiller dubbed to be as effective as opioids, only minus their disadvantages, from a 16-year old mud sample found nearby a Tasmanian boat ramp. 

The discovery happened while researchers from the University of Queensland were investigating the chemistry of marine fungi. Professor Rob Capon, from the university’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience said, “We came across a fungus that yielded a new type of molecule which we named the bilaids, that I noticed were similar to endomorphins – natural peptides produced by the human body that activate opioid receptors and provide pain relief.”

This then prompted him to team up with researchers from the University of Sydney to further investigate the molecules for their potential usage as a painkiller. During this time, they made chemical modifications to the bilaids to create a new molecule, called bilorphin, which they claim to be as potent as morphine in resolving pain. 

According to Professor Macdonald Christie from the University of Sydney, “No one had ever pulled anything out of nature, anything more ancient than a vertebrate, that seemed to act on opioid receptors – and we found it,” Professor Christie said. “If this proves successful and leads to a new medication, it will significantly reduce the risk of death by overdose from opioid medications such as codeine.”

Normally, molecules may be described as either “left-handed” or “right-handed”. Although most natural amino acids are “left-handed”, the bilaids featured alternating “left-handed” and “right-handed” amino acids. This means that, while opioids like morphine activate opioid receptors with a bias towards one cascade, bilorphin is able to activate these receptors with the opposite bias. 

The researchers thus hypothesized that the signaling bias is likely behind the negative side effects, such as addiction and respiratory depression, seen in those taking opioid drugs. This then means that the activation of this opposite bias may be behind bilorphin’s potential to be a safer pain relief drug. 

According to Professor Capon, “Although our discovery of an analgesic from an estuarine mud fungus was serendipitous, it does beg the question – with an almost infinite diversity of fungi in soils, plants, animals and waters of the planet, perhaps we should be exploring other fungi for analgesics?”


Sources: SciTechDaily, PNAS, University of Queensland and KSHB

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
AUG 11, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
High Doses of CBD Safe for Driving
AUG 11, 2022
High Doses of CBD Safe for Driving
The University of Sydney research team studied the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on driving, and they found that the high ...
AUG 07, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Shows Promise in Preventing Malaria
AUG 07, 2022
Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Shows Promise in Preventing Malaria
A singular injection of a monoclonal antibody treatment candidate has been shown as safe and highly protective in US adu ...
AUG 30, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Research Highlights the Training Needs of Cannabis Dispensary Staff
AUG 30, 2022
Research Highlights the Training Needs of Cannabis Dispensary Staff
A new study published in JCO Oncology Practice, and conducted by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, found unev ...
SEP 11, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Effects of Ketamine in Mice Depend on Sex of Human Experimenter
SEP 11, 2022
Effects of Ketamine in Mice Depend on Sex of Human Experimenter
Researchers found that mice more consistently experience antidepressant effects from ketamine when administered by men a ...
SEP 15, 2022
Neuroscience
Food Insecurity Affects Brain Development
SEP 15, 2022
Food Insecurity Affects Brain Development
A recent study found that food insecurity affects brain development in mice. University of California Berkeley researche ...
SEP 28, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Impact of In Vivo Controls on Therapeutic Drug Development
SEP 28, 2022
Impact of In Vivo Controls on Therapeutic Drug Development
The significance of antibody based in vivo studies   For both research and therapeutic purposes, antibodies ca ...
Loading Comments...