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Research Abstracts Online
January 2008 - March 2009

University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Medical School
Department of Pharmacology

PI: Sabita Roy
Co-PI: Sundaram Ramakrishnan

Effect of Morphine on the Immune System

There is a strong correlation between chronic drug use and increased susceptibility to opportunistic infection; opioid addicts are prone to both bacterial and viral infections, including HIV. Macrophages form the first line of defense against any invading pathogens, therefore any detriment to the efficient functioning of these cells will severely impair host defense and render the individual more susceptible to infection. Both chronic morphine use and morphine withdrawal have been shown to inhibit macrophage phagocytosis and decrease microbicidal activity. The cellular and molecular mechanism by which these functions are modulated has not been delineated, however. Interestingly, both chronic morphine treatment and morphine withdrawal also result in superactivation of adenylate cyclase.

The major focus of this project is to determine the mechanisms by which chronic morphine and morphine withdrawal modulate these essential macrophage functions and if elevation of cAMP plays a role in these deficits. The researchers’ long-term goal is to identify the mechanisms by which opiate drug abuse contributes to immunosuppression and susceptibility to infection and to develop therapeutic strategies aimed at modulating these functions.

Group Member

Anitha Krishnan, Research Associate