Imprimir Republish


Painkilling protein in coffee

Protein fragments identified in coffee have morphine-like effects

Eduardo CesarProtein fragments identified in coffee have morphine-like effectsEduardo Cesar

Protein fragments (peptides) that act similarly to morphine have been identified in coffee by researchers in Brazil’s Federal District. The research was conducted by Felipe Vinecky during his doctoral studies at the University of Brasília (UnB), advised by researcher Carlos Bloch Júnior at Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology. Their work was originally intended to search for coffee genes associated with better quality in the final product, as part of a project developed in a partnership between Embrapa and the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD, in the French acronym). As they were analyzing the genetic material, Vinecky and Bloch Júnior observed that some sequences contained functional internal fragments – known as encrypted peptides – whose structures were similar to those of some opioids that are naturally found in the human body, such as enkephalin, a neurotransmitter that can modulate pain. Using synthetic analogues, the researchers at UnB tested the potential painkilling effect of the peptides on mice. The tests showed that the protein fragments can suppress pain, just like morphine, but with additional perks: their effect lasts longer – about four hours – and they have no significant side effects. The two institutions have submitted an application to the Brazilian Industrial Property Institute (INPI) to patent seven peptides discovered through the study.