Luxembourg researchers have developed a novel molecule that binds to and blocks a previously unrecognized opioid receptor in the human brain.

The finding might eventually lead to new options for treating pain and depression, both of which are commonly seen among senior living residents.

Scientists found that using the molecule — called LIH383 — allows more opioid peptides to target pain and depression. The discovery could help fuel the development of a novel class of drugs for treating pain, depression and other brain-related maladies.

“Our findings essentially brought forward a new and previously unknown mechanism to fine-tune the opioid system and modulate the abundance of natural opioids,” said Martyna Szpakowska, Ph.D.

Full findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.