Orphan receptor involved in opioid itching
Researchers in the UNC School of Medicine have linked an orphan receptor with opioid-induced itching.
Orphan receptors are receptors scientists know exist but aren’t sure what purpose they serve.
The Bryan Roth lab in the pharmacology department, which works to find binding molecules for orphan receptors, found the receptor MRGRPX2 is related to opioid-induced itching.
A graduate student in the Roth lab, Kate Lansu, screened around 7,000 small molecules against MRGRPX2 to see what a potential ligand might look like. From there, University California at San Francisco graduate student Joel Karpiak used a computational model to screen 3.7M molecules for a match to the receptor, finding opioids were a match.
Before finding what MRGRPX2 binds to, the researchers already knew it was a receptor on mast cells — an important component of the immune system. Lansu said itching can be caused by a release of histamines from mast cells in a process called degranulation, which also has previously been linked to opioids.
The researchers think finding this receptor could help pharmacologists create drugs to counteract opioid-induced itching along with create new medicines to increase histamine responses to boost immunity.
Water testing in Wake County
Frank Stillo, a researcher with the Gillings School of Public Health, and Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, a professor in the Gillings School of Public Health, embarked on a project to test the well water in 57 homes in Wake County.