Recent progress in opiate receptor research of particular relevance to clinicians is discussed. A simple binding assay, which in itself is valuable in allowing rapid screening of new compounds for opiate activity, has been the basis of these studies. Extensive mapping of opiate receptors in subcortical brain regions has provided important insights into the neuronal pathways involved in analgesia, while physical and chemical characterization of these receptors has led to a simple means of distinguishing agonists from antagonists. The existence of multiple receptors suggests that the analgetic effects of the opiates may be dissociated from other effects, and studies of tolerance and dependence indicate that they too may be dissociable from analgesia. Purification of the receptors, at last a reasonable possibility, may lead to new ways to promote or inhibit analgesia.
- opiate receptor