Los Angeles: Researchers have developed a variant of a major painkiller receptor that enables scientists to perform experiments which was previously deemed difficult or was impossible, says a study.

An interdisciplinary group of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has developed a variant of the mu opioid receptor that has several advantages when it comes to experimentation.

This variant can be grown in large quantities in bacteria and is also water-soluble, enabling experiments and applications that had previously been very challenging or impossible, reports a newspaper.

The study was led by Renyu Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, and Jeffery Saven, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences.

The research was published in the Journal PLOS ONE.

The mu opioid receptor belongs to a class of cellular membrane proteins called G protein-coupled receptors or GPCRs. Involved in wide range of biological processes, these receptors bind to molecules in the environment, initiating cellular signaling pathways.

In the case of this receptor, binding to opioid molecule leads to a profound reduction of pain but also to a variety of unpleasant and potentially fatal side-effects, a problem that researchers from multiple disciplines are attempting to address.

"There are two directions for solving this problem in basic science, either working on the opioid molecule or working on the receptor. We're doing the latter," Liu said.


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