Scientists have isolated an antidepressant from the bark of a tropical tree

(ORDO NEWS) — American researchers have isolated an alkaloid called GB18 from the bark of the Galbulimima belgraveana tree, which is used by the indigenous peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea for medicinal and religious purposes.

Scientists have found that it interacts with opioid receptors, but does not activate, but blocks them, so it can act as an antidepressant.

The Galbulimima belgraveana tree grows only in the remote rainforests of Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. Indigenous peoples have long used its bark for medicinal purposes and in religious ceremonies. A decoction of the bark of G. belgraveana induces drowsiness, but at the same time acts as an analgesic and antipyretic.

To investigate these effects, scientists at Scripps Research isolated more than 40 unique chemical compounds from tree bark in order to reproduce them in the laboratory and describe the mechanism of action.

G. belgraveana alkaloids were first known in the 1950s. They have been shown to relieve spasms of smooth muscles and alter the rhythm of the heartbeat, among other effects. One of them, GB18, also affected the behavior of mice. However, it was not possible to synthesize the compound in the laboratory to evaluate its therapeutic value.

GB18 has a complex three-dimensional structure, but now scientists have managed to develop a special synthesis method that allows them to reproduce it in the laboratory. The method proposed by the authors can also be used to create other chemical compounds resembling GB18.

After that, scientists found that this substance binds to opioid receptors – the targets of many painkillers and narcotic drugs.

However, while opioid analgesics and narcotic alkaloids activate opioid receptors, GB18 turns them off. The molecule binds to two different types of opioid receptors in the brain, which have never before been identified as targets of any of the G. belgraveana alkaloids.

Researchers are now investigating the details of GB18’s interaction with opioid receptors. According to the authors of the work, its unique properties may be useful in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders. In the future, scientists plan to adapt GB18 for human use in order to create drugs based on it.

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