Skip Navigation
National Institute of Environmental Health SciencesNational Institutes of Health
Increase text size Decrease text size Print this page


Medicinal Chemistry Group

frog "In collaboration with our associates worldwide, we have collectively become leaders in the development of several new classes of opioidmimetic substances containing Dmt that orders of magnitude more potent than morphine as agonists and antagonists that suppress drug addcition without side-effects. In doing so, we addressed and answered the question on the issue of passage of opioids through epithelial barriers, such as intestine and brain."

Opioidmimetic ligands, compounds that exert profound physiological effects on humans, represent a fascinating topic of research that bridges the realm of basic science and culture. As long as humans wandered the world, religious rituals or shamanic practices and hunting societies employed a variety of hallucinogenic materials derived from plant and animal sources to induce an altered mental and physiological state in order to enhance perception or provide for an increased awareness of their cultural environment.

In addition to smoking or ingestion of dried leaves or extracts of plant materials, such as the hemp family (marijuana), cacti seed pods (peyote), coca leaves (cocaine), and the external application of amphibian skin exudates (drug complex) in the Amazon basin, and the latex sap of poppy pods (morphine), produced myriad psychological dependent and addictive behaviors.

Over a period of several millennia, the alkaloid morphine and subsequent derivatives became a staple in the medical pharmacopoeia to alleviate a large array of symptoms including the abatement of pain; however, these compounds harbor considerable addictive side-effects, such as the reduction of gastrointestinal motility, severe respiratory distress, physical and psychological dependency, and physiological tolerance. Our collaborative studies focus on the production of opioid ligands which might alleviate pain without addiction, tolerance and deleterious side-effects, as well as those which act to antagonize addictive behaviors impinging on the neural reward pathway in the absence of withdrawal symptoms. In fact, recent studies indicate success toward some of these goals.

For more information on the Medicinal Chemistry Group’s research, see the following links.

Back to top Back to top Department of Health & Human Services National Institutes of Health
This page URL:
NIEHS website:
Email the Web Manager at
Last Reviewed: November 30, 2007