AT-121 as a Potential Opioid Replacement
Lewis, Stephanie N.
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The mu opioid Receptor (μ-Receptor) is the neural structure involved in interpreting pain signals. An opioid acts as an agonist that provides pain relief by binding to a large number of these receptors and preventing pain signals from being processed by the brain. Over prescription of addictive opioids in America has led to a rise in addiction in recent decades. To reduce addiction rates, we sought to research a new drug that has the potential to block pain signals without causing dependence and see what sets it apart from common opioids. A ligand supposedly matching this description has been identified in AT-121. We used computational docking methods and structural analysis to determine if AT-121 poses a legitimate solution to opioid addiction. To determine if docking was successful, we relied on a complementary study to identify key ligands, and their residues involved with neurochemical opioid interactions. Our results indicate that AT-121 interacted with the residue that is essential for a conformational change to the binding cavity. Given this, human testing should be carried out to further assess the agonist’s effectiveness at reducing addiction to opioids. If testing results show positive results, AT-121 could pose as a beneficial drug for helping to cease the US opioid epidemic.