Although many new pain relievers have been synthesized since the crystallization of morphine from opium almost 200 years ago, "morphine remains the standard against which all new medications for postoperative pain relief are compared," notes Jonathan Moss, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anesthesia and critical care at the University of Chicago.
Despite 200 years of increasingly frequent use however, even the medical uses of morphine still present problems, such as severe nausea, itching, and constipation.
Moss has been invited to speak at the Einbeck morphine-commemorative conference in May on the relationship between morphine and a drug known as methylnaltrexone -- a peripheral opiate antagonist developed at the University of Chicago -- which can prevent many of these troubling side effects.
Moss's lecture, "Morphine's secrets revealed," will focus on how methylnaltrexone enables scientists to distinguish between the central analgesic effects of morphine and its peripheral side effects.
Discovery of morphine
Morphine was discovered by Freidrich Wilhelm Adam Serturner (1783-1841), an obscure, uneducated, 21-year-old pharmacist's assistant with little equipment but loads of curiosity.
Serturner wondered about the medicinal properties of opium, which was widely used by 18th-century physicians. In a series of experiments, performed in his spare time and published in 1806, he managed to isolate an organic alkaloid compound from the resinous gum secreted by Papaver somniferum -- the opium popp
Contact: John Easton
University of Chicago Medical Center