Affiliated with Université Laval & CERVO Research Centre

Remote local photoactivation of morphine produces analgesia without opioid-related adverse effects.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Br J Pharmacol (2021)


<p><strong>BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: </strong>Opioid-based drugs are the gold standard medicines for pain relief. However, tolerance and several side effects (i.e. constipation and dependence) may occur upon chronic opioid administration. Photopharmacology is a promising approach to improve the benefit/risk profiles of these drugs. Thus, opioids can be locally activated with high spatiotemporal resolution, potentially minimizing systemic-mediated adverse effects. Here, we aimed at developing a morphine photo-derivative (photocaged morphine), which can be activated upon light irradiation both in vitro and in vivo.</p>

<p><strong>EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: </strong>Light-dependent activity of pc-morphine was assessed in cell-based assays (intracellular calcium accumulation and electrophysiology) and in mice (formalin animal model of pain). In addition, tolerance, constipation and dependence were investigated in vivo using experimental paradigms.</p>

<p><strong>KEY RESULTS: </strong>In mice, pc-morphine was able to elicit antinociceptive effects, both using external light-irradiation (hind paw) and spinal cord implanted fibre-optics. In addition, remote morphine photoactivation was devoid of common systemic opioid-related undesired effects, namely, constipation, tolerance to the analgesic effects, rewarding effects and naloxone-induced withdrawal.</p>

<p><strong>CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS: </strong>Light-dependent opioid-based drugs may allow effective analgesia without the occurrence of tolerance or the associated and severe opioid-related undesired effects.</p>