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Spain: Optopharmacology Wake-Up Service — Spanish Scientist Develop First Light-Activated Drug

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

A team of the Institute of Neurosciences of the University of Barcelona has participated in the design of the first light-activated drug –the JF-NP-26, for the treatment of pain, according to a research with animal models published in the journal elife.

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The new study, published in the journal eLife, provides the first example of a drug activated by light (JP-NP-26) which acts in vivo as an analgesic in animal models.
The new study, published in the journal eLife, provides the first example of a drug activated by light (JP-NP-26) which acts in vivo as an analgesic in animal models.
(Source: Universitat de Barcelona)

Barcelona/Spain — Common pharmacology has limitations such as low and inexact distribution of the drug, lack of spatiotemporal traits in the organism, difficulties in the dose adjustments, etc., which can limit the therapeutic action of any drug. In this context, optopharmacology is an emerging discipline in pharmacology, based on the use of light to control drug activity. Therefore, using light on a photosensitive drug, the pharmacological process can be controlled with spatial and temporal precision.

“In the clinical field, there is not any precedent of the uses of optopharmacology to improve pain treatment or any disease associated with the nervous system. This is the first light-activated drug designed for the treatment of pain in vivo with animal models”, says Professor Francisco Ciruela.

The new study published on the journal elife has come up with the design of a “photo-drug” (JF-NP-26) with powerful therapeutic applications to treat pain, a molecule that can be specifically activated at any wished moment (that is, with a high spatiotemporal resolution) with light.

Designing a Toxic Effect-Free Photosensitive Compound

In this new optopharmacology proposal, a drug with a known action mechanism (for example an analgesic) is chemically modified to make it photosensitive and inactive. This drug is activated when receiving light –using an optical fiber- of a suitable wave length and with an exact precision on the target tissue (brain, skin, articulations, etc.).


The drug JF-NP-26 is also called photocaged, a chemically and inactive covered molecule which is activated with light. Compared to other photosensitive compounds, JF-NP-26 is a molecule that has no pharmacological effect on an animal until the target tissue received light from a visible spectrum (405 nm wave length). Moreover, JF-NP-26 does not show toxic or unwanted effects even if the dose is high –in short-length studies on animals.

The drug’s lightening includes a treatment on the molecule that releases the active molecule (raseglurant) that blocks the metabotropic glutamate type 5 (mGlu5) receptor, found in lots of neuronal functions such as the spread of neuronal pain. Blocking this receptor allows preventing the pain from spreading into the brain. This can be produced both due the outlying neurons and the central nervous system (brain) and create, in both cases, an analgesic effect as a result.

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