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Papers of the Week

Papers: 14 May 2022 - 20 May 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 May 04

Int J Mol Sci



Quantitative Systems Pharmacology and Biased Agonism at Opioid Receptors: A Potential Avenue for Improved Analgesics.



Chronic pain is debilitating and represents a significant burden in terms of personal and socio-economic costs. Although opioid analgesics are widely used in chronic pain treatment, many patients report inadequate pain relief or relevant adverse effects, highlighting the need to develop analgesics with improved efficacy/safety. Multiple evidence suggests that G protein-dependent signaling triggers opioid-induced antinociception, whereas arrestin-mediated pathways are credited with modulating different opioid adverse effects, thus spurring extensive research for G protein-biased opioid agonists as analgesic candidates with improved pharmacology. Despite the increasing expectations of functional selectivity, translating G protein-biased opioid agonists into improved therapeutics is far from being fully achieved, due to the complex, multidimensional pharmacology of opioid receptors. The multifaceted network of signaling events and molecular processes underlying therapeutic and adverse effects induced by opioids is more complex than the mere dichotomy between G protein and arrestin and requires more comprehensive, integrated, network-centric approaches to be fully dissected. Quantitative Systems Pharmacology (QSP) models employing multidimensional assays associated with computational tools able to analyze large datasets may provide an intriguing approach to go beyond the greater complexity of opioid receptor pharmacology and the current limitations entailing the development of biased opioid agonists as improved analgesics.