PARIS (AFP) – Researchers have discovered the genes that allow the opium poppy to make codeine and morphine, according to a new study.
The findings could lead to engineered plants and micro-organisms that efficiently make codeine, one of the most widely prescribed painkillers in the world, the researchers said.
Unlike morphine, codeine cannot be easily converted to heroin.
“The enzymes encoded by these two genes have eluded plant biochemists for a half-century,” said Peter Facchini, a professor at the University of Calgary in Canada and co-author of the paper.
“In finding not only the enzymes but also the genes, we’ve make a major step forward,” he said in a press release.
Opium poppy remains the world’s dominant source of codeine, morphine and another opiate called oxycodone, according to the study, published Sunday in Nature Chemical Biology.
In clinical medicine, morphine is often regarded as the drug-of-first-choice to relieve severe pain and suffering.
Codeine can be extracted directly from the opium plant, but mostly it is synthesised from the much more abundant morphine found in the opium poppy.
Most morphine produced for pharmaceutical use around the world is converted into codeine.
Once ingested, codeine is converted by an enzyme in the liver to morphine, which is the active painkiller and a naturally occurring compound in humans.
“With this discovery, we can potentially create plants that will stop production at codeine,” said Facchini.
“Our discovery now makes it possible to use microorganisms to produce opiate drugs and other important pharmaceuticals.”
Co-author Jillian Hagel, a post-doctoral scientist in Facchini’s laboratory, used cutting-edge sequencing techniques to sift through some 23,000 different genes to find the one — codeine O-dementhylase (CODM) — that produces the plant enzyme which converts codeine into morphine.
“We have found the missing pieces that were needed to understand how the opium poppy makes morphine,” she said.
The opium poppy has been grown and exploited for thousands of years for both its medicinal and mind-altering properties.
Morphine was isolated in the early 19th century, while codeine was first identified in 1832 by French chemist Pierre Robiquet.
Matt Gaetz forgot which network he was on: Surprised CNN anchor said ‘I’ve never been called Sean Hannity’
Rep. Matt Gaetz seemed to confuse cable news networks during a Thursday appearance
Gaetz was interviewed by CNN's Chris Cuomo, who aggressively challenged Gaetz on the facts as the Florida Republican attempted to defend President Donald Trump.
Despite the fact Cuomo's interview was nothing like the puff segments Gaetz is used to on Fox, the congressman seemed confused by the end.
"Congressman, you are always welcome, wherever I am, at nine or eleven, whenever," Cuomo said.
"Thanks Sean," Gaetz replied.
"Did you just call me Sean?" Cuomo asked. "Did you just call me Sean?"
California lawmaker who chaired Republican Assembly caucus leaving GOP — to become an independent: report
On Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reported that California Assemblyman Chad Mayes, the former Assembly Minority Leader, is leaving the Republican Party and registering as No Party Preference.
"Instead of focusing on solutions for the big problems that we've got, we focused on winning elections," said Mayes in his announcement. "For me, I'm at the point in my life where I'm done with gamesmanship."
Mayes, a controversial figure who was implicated in an affair with a fellow public official, represents Yucca Valley. He is the second Republican Assemblyman this year to leave the party, after Brian Maienschein of San Diego, who Maienschein of San Diego.
‘Quantum physics generator’ incident in Ohio results in evacuation — hazmat found no radiation
Authorities in Columbus, Ohio evacuated dozens of homes after a man called 911 to report being burned by a
"Firefighters say nothing threatening was found in a northwest Columbus garage," WCMH-TV reported. "According to firefighters, a man called and reported that he received ‘RF burns’ while building some sort of ‘quantum physics generator’ in a garage. The man used words like ‘particle accelerator,’ ‘alpha rays,’ and ‘radiation’ while describing how he was burned."