A large protein found in spinach may aid in the development of new medications for millions around the world dealing with alcohol use disorders, chronic pain and mood disorders, researchers said. The study, led by researchers from the Purdue University, discovered two peptides which are naturally metabolic products of Rubisco -- a large protein found in many plants like spinach -- that may aid in the development of new medications.
"These disorders are currently not adequately managed," said Richard van Rijn, Assistant Professor at Purdue.
"Better medications that take a more holistic approach and produce fewer side effects will be beneficial.
"We discovered that these peptides selectively activate the known beneficial pathways without activating the 'side-effect pathways' of the receptor," van Rijn added.
The discovery, published in the European Neuropsychopharmacolgy, aims to develop molecules that only activate the cellular signalling pathways associated with their therapeutic effect.
Preclinical studies suggest that the peptides are orally bioavailable and able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, both of which are necessary for a drug to effectively treat a disorder of the central nervous system, van Rijn said.
The researchers are actively pursuing synthetic and computational strategies to improve these peptides to make them more effective.
The rubiscolin peptides are also being investigated for their ability to regulate dietary intake and are even commercially available in anti-ageing skin products.