News Release
  June 14, 2013


Jessica Mikulski


Perelman School of Medicine

This news brief is available online at

Penn Research Team Designs Novel Variant of Main Painkiller Receptor

PHILADELPHIA — University of Pennsylvania researchers from a multidisciplinary team from the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine and the Department of Chemistry, School of Arts and Sciences, have developed a soluble variant of the mu opioid receptor, which is involved in pain and addiction, that may facilitate the development of novel pain medications.  Their findings appear in the latest edition of the journal PLOS ONE.

The study was led by Renyu Liu, MD, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, and Jeffery Saven, PhD, associate professor, Department of Chemistry. Jose Manuel Perez-Aguilar, then a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry, and Jin Xi, Felipe Matsunaga and Xu Cui, lab members in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, along with Bernard Selling of Impact Biologicals Inc., contributed significantly to this study.

The research was supported by the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research, Perelman School of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Mary Elizabeth Groff Foundation, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation through Penn’s Nano/Bio Interface Center and Penn’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

For more information, please see the University of Pennsylvania press release.


Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.