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Mentor: Tom Prisinzano, PhD
Year Entered Into Program: 2003
PhD Institution: University of Iowa, 2007
The Prisinzano Lab investigates the interactions of drugs with the central nervous system (CNS). Through the elucidation of the mechanism of action of these drugs, we can begin to more clearly understand the underlying mechanism of addiction as well as begin to develop novel therapeutics for its treatment. In particular, we are very interested in the mechanism and modulation of neuropathic and chronic pain. In order to understand the mechanism of pain transmission and the pathways involved, selective agonists and antagonists are required for receptors involved in these pathways. Many pharmacological tools have come from natural sources and so the investigation of a novel natural source for opioid ligands provides a unique source for the development of new pharmacological treatments for pain. My research focuses on the novel kappa opioid ligand salvinorin A isolated from the Mexican sage Salvia divinorum. By systematically modifying salvinorin A, we will generate a better understanding of the required pharmacophore for affinity and activity at opioid receptors. Additionally, compounds which show promise (i.e. high selectivity and affinity) will be tested in in vivo pharmacological tests of nociception and drug self-administration. This plan of investigation will follow the complete process of drug discovery from isolation, to chemical synthesis and pharmacological testing in vivo.
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