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Unearthing molecules for non-addictive pain medications

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Category: research Video duration: Unearthing molecules for non-addictive pain medications
Assistant Professor Emily Mevers and her students are dedicated to discovering natural products from under-explored environmental niches. Her team is currently studying a millipede that could potentially lead to a replacement for opioids and other pain-relief medications. "Seventy percent of your drugs that you take, that are prescribed to you, are actually from nature," said Mevers. "We're hoping to develop a new, non-addictive analgesic — something to treat pain."
Oh, yeah, I see. Oh, we're out here. It's collecting millipedes. They're called andrew, not this chronic carriers. There are local to Southwest Virginia and they produce some really cool, really unique compounds. And so we're really excited to see what potential new drug these could be. This field is called natural products chemistry. And in fact, 70% of your drugs that you take that are prescribed to you or actually from nature. And nature's are greatest chemists. They make really complex molecules and these molecules have evolved to interact with animals, insects, which are very similar interactions that we would expect these molecules to have in humans. So specifically today, we're looking at millipede and isn't because it's been reported that these millipedes, this orient hands. If you're going to disorient an ant, it means that you're doing it with some small molecule. And we started looking at these and realize they're alkaloids in the same family of compounds called morphine. And so they have the potential to be neurohacking. We're hoping to develop a new non addictive analgesia, something that's treat pain, who we all know the issue with opioids and that's not a real source or a solution to the problem. So can we find a molecule that treats pain and a non addictive way that doesn't have any other negative effects that other pain medicines have. Of course you never know whether or not whatever you're working on is actually going to become a drug. But I really wanted to be able to help people in some way, shape or form. And so I really liked this lab looking in natural places in the environment, and then also being able to get out of the lab and be outside being in nature, which is very uncommon in chemistry. And so with all of that, this lab was great for me in order to continue my chemistry career.