Getting high off frogs: Wingate Ph.D. recognized nationally for - myfoxcarolinas.com

Getting high off frogs: Wingate Ph.D. recognized nationally for research

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Dr. Krista Wilson of Wingate University is being recognized as one of 10 semifinalists by the American Chemical Society (ACS) in the Chemistry Champions contest -- stemming from her research with the “giant monkey frog” and it’s potential to help create a new pharmaceutical drug.

“We do research based on peptides which are short proteins made out of amino acids,” Dr. Wilson said. “We make peptides based on a peptide found in the skin of the giant monkey frog. This giant monkey frog secretes a peptide in its skin that when you ingest it, it gets you high.

“It’s very similar to morphine and other opioid-type drugs…We take the sequence of the amino acids from the frog and then we modify them to try to make them more potent – potentially to use as pain drugs in the future.”

Wilson said that side effects from the drug they’re looking to create would be less severe than certain options while having pain-relief power that is six-times more powerful.

“It targets the delta opioid receptor system as opposed to the Mu opioid receptors," Wilson said. "The Mu is what morphine targets. It causes respiratory depression, addiction, a lot of gastrointestinal effects. The delta receptor system is sort of a back-door system. It causes a similar relief of pain but it doesn’t have as many negative side effects as something like morphine does.”

Wilson will fly to San Francisco for a closed-door competition on August 9. Five finalists will be selected after presenting research to a live-public audience on August 10.

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