Erin N. Bobeck, PhD
Evaluation of a New Receptor, GPR171, as a Pain Therapeutic
Opioid prescriptions for pain in the United States have skyrocketed over recent years, which has contributed to the opioid epidemic. The need for better pain therapeutics that have reduced abuse liability is essential in ending this crisis. Orphan G-protein coupled receptors could be a new avenue to investigate for the treatment of pain and a variety of other health concerns. One interesting candidate is GPR171, which recently was found to be the receptor of the highly abundant neuropeptide, BigLEN. This research is investigating the neural circuitry of this system, BigLEN-GPR171, and its ability to alleviate chronic pain. Preliminary data show that a GPR171 agonist has antinociceptive properties when combined with an opioid or in inflammatory pain. In addition, inflammation alters GPR171 expression within a key brain region, periaqueductal gray, that is involved in pain modulation. The ongoing research funded by the PhRMA Foundation uses molecular and behavioral pharmacology to investigate the long-term effects of a GPR171 agonist on inflammatory pain. In addition, the project is deciphering which brain areas are mediating these responses. Overall, this innovative research has important pain therapeutic implications, as it will enhance our understanding of the physiological functions of this novel neuropeptide system.
This Research Starter Grant from the PhRMA Foundation has kickstarted my independent laboratory into a new avenue of research in evaluating new drug targets for pain. It has allowed us to collect preliminary data for an NIH proposal that will hopefully be funded soon. I am very grateful for these funds from the PhRMA Foundation and excited to see how this research unfolds.