The United States knows that it has an opioid epidemic on its hand. The abuse and then overdose of opioids has skyrocketed in recent years. Opioids can be dangerous even when taken as directed, and more so if abused.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is one of the strongest and most dangerous drugs out there. It is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. When compared to heroin it is 40 to 60 times more potent. That means just a little bit of this drug can go a long way.
Fentanyl can cause an opioid overdose. It can slow down the systems of the body and cause death.
German researchers seem to have found a way to make fentanyl safer. It involves changing its molecular structure and what it effects.
They used a computer model system to alter fentanyl, so it only affects certain areas. Those are areas that have inflammation and cause pain. This ends up lessening the side effects of fentanyl by a lot.
Researchers believe the side effects of fentanyl are because the drug doesn’t know the difference between healthy and unhealthy. Instead, it latches on to all cells and areas.
They instead have it target specific areas and receptors. This means it doesn’t affect areas that don’t have pain.
If they can arrange it so that fentanyl only targets inflammation, then that lessens the exposure. Inflammation causes pH levels to drop, so it is easier to target. This means it will only activate where the pain signals start.
The idea of managing the receptors as pH-sensitive seems to be doable. This can lead to avoiding dangerous side effects of opioids. This is the first design where they try to make a molecule that is sensitive to pH.
If you end up combining this new molecular structure with other strategies, it is possible to make a safer opioid. Fewer side effects, less chance of addiction or abuse if it only reacts to specific pHs.
This wouldn’t be available on the market for quite some time. There is a lot of testing it has to go through before it can even be approved for testing on humans. After that, it is still a costly process to go through.