Mice, Morphine, and Other Essentials of a Mad Scientist #2 – Ted

As this project has been building momentum, so has my research. With a basic level of understanding around the kidney, liver, and heroin; I am ready to start diving into more complex articles and scientific journals. Along the same lines of momentum, I will soon be visiting the lab of the researchers who I am collaborating with. The details of this visit will be discussed in my next blog so stay tuned! Back to what is currently happening, my research has taken me to an interesting enzyme named cytochrome P450.

Yes, I know that the name is almost nauseating to look at, and you may be thinking to yourself: “Maybe this is the point where I should go ahead and flip back to that web article of the top 10 celebrity baby pictures…” Well, bear with me because it’s not as complicated as it appears. The name “cytochrome P450” is actually the name of a family of enzymes. While “cytochrome” is indeed a fancy science name, the “P450” comes from a historic perspective. When scientists first started identifying this enzyme in cells, they used a method involving light waves. Light waves, sent at a wavelength of 450nm (nanometers), were sent through a cell and would be reflected back if they bounced off the correct pigment “P” that is found in the “cytochrome P450” enzyme. Thus, the name of the enzyme comes from the pigment and wavelength involved in the enzyme’s identification.

Moving onto the actual function of the enzyme, cytochrome P450’s (CYP’s) play a significant part in detoxifying the body as well as aiding in the construction of steroids, vitamins A and D, and several molecules used in cell signaling. Throughout the year, I will most likely be focusing on the detoxification function of CYP’s. The word “detoxification” is a bit misleading when put in the context of the general population but one can think of this term as eliminating any chemical that the body does not want to keep in the blood stream. Detoxification, then, includes drugs that we digest such as Aspirin, Advil, or Tylenol. The reason as to why doses of drugs wear off is due to the activity of CYP’s that help rid the bloodstream of foreign molecules. CYP’s do this by attaching oxygen to unwanted molecules, making the molecules more soluble in water and easily dealt with by the immune system.

CYP’s will play an important role in my project as the effects of morphine on livers and kidneys are observed. I predict that the level of activity of CYP’s in the morphine addicted mice will have an overall effect on the mice health, and potentially give more insight as to how CYP behavior in these organs plays into the larger picture of opioid addiction. The observing of mice kidneys and livers will most likely not take place until Semester 2 of this year. I will, however, continue to research and blog regarding the facets that I will be exploring when the time for observation comes.




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