Washington University School of Medicine neuroscientists, led by Michael R. Bruchas, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology and of neurobiology, have attached the light-sensing protein rhodopsin to opioid receptor parts to activate the receptor pathways using light from a laser fiber-optic device. They also influenced the behavior of mice using light, rather than drugs, to activate the reward response.
Itching is one of the most prevalent side effects of powerful, pain-killing drugs like morphine, oxycodone and other opioids. For many years, scientists have scratched their own heads about why the drugs so often induce itch while they are suppressing pain. Now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown they can control the opioid-induced itching without interfering with a drug’s ability to relieve pain.