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Snyder, Solomon Halbert

pain drugs sites existence

(1938– ) US pharmacologist: suggested existence of endorphins.

Educated at Georgetown University, Snyder worked at Johns Hopkins University from 1965. His work which led to the discovery of the body’s natural pain relievers, the endorphins, began with the knowledge that some drugs are effective in very small concentration; thus the synthetic drug etorphine (an analogue of morphine) relieves pain in doses of only 0.0001 g. To be so effective, the drug must act on some highly selective receptor sites, and Snyder and Candace Pert née Beebe (1946– ) used morphine-like drugs with radioactive labels to locate these sites. Success in a difficult search came in 1973 when they reported that receptor sites are located in the mammalian limbic system, which is in a region in the centre of the brain associated with the perception of pain. Clearly these receptors have not evolved in order to accept synthetic drugs, and their existence implies that natural morphine-like substances must also exist. Within a few years such substances, endorphins, were found by other workers; they are highly potent analgesics (pain-relievers) and are now known to be peptides formed in the pituitary gland. Their existence may be relevant to the analgesia obtained in acupuncture.

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