March 3, 2022
New plant-based compounds have been created to treat alcohol use disorder
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 14.5 million people ages 12 and older have alcohol use disorder, or AUD. This represents 5.3% of that population, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Researchers in Purdue University’s College of Pharmacy, the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery and Washington University in St. Louis are synthesizing compounds to treat people affected by AUD. The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Richard Van Rijn, adjunct associate professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology in Purdue’s College of Pharmacy, leads the research program with Susruta Majumdar, associate professor of pharmaceutical and administrative sciences in the University of Health and Sciences & Pharmacy in St. Louis. Van Rijn said the compounds are based on alkaloids found in the plant Mitragyna speciosa, or kratom. These compounds could treat AUD and have less abuse potential than opium-derived opioids.
“We can synthesize a derivative of the natural-occurring kratom alkaloid speciogynine, which has superior potency to reduce alcohol intake,” Van Rijn said. “We used mouse models of alcohol use and assessment of adverse effects, including monitoring for seizures or hyperactivity. Our synthesized compound does not display adverse effects observed with other kratom alkaloids, including abuse potential, hyperactivity and seizures. As such, this molecule may have utility in humans in treating alcohol use disorder.”
Alkaloids found within kratom, Van Rijn said, are considered less problematic than synthetic opioids or opium-derived opioids like fentanyl, morphine and oxycodeine.
“The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has not scheduled kratom as a substance of abuse,” he said. “More research is needed to properly establish this, but one hypothesis for their lower risk for abuse is related to their cellular pharmacology.”
Still, Van Rijn said, several steps are needed to further develop the compound to treat AUD.
“We will look to reduce any potential off-target effects. Kratom alkaloids may interact with multiple nonopioid receptors, so improving the current molecule series to limit those interactions would make the molecule safer,” Van Rijn said.
“We also need to conduct studies to determine the half life of the drug, how it is metabolized and how much is getting into the brain.”
A provisional patent application on the research was filed by the co-owner, University of Health Science & Pharmacy in St. Louis. Industry leaders looking to develop or license the compound should contact Annie Ghosh of the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization at email@example.com about 2022-VANR-69644.
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Writer: Steve Martin, email@example.com
Source: Richard van Rijn, firstname.lastname@example.org