A new study published in the journal Neuropharmacology identifies a class of compounds that might stop chronic itch, or pruritus, a condition often associated with kidney failure and dialysis. The study, conducted by scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute, was effective in stopping irritant-induced itch without causing sedation in mouse models. The compound, called isoquinolinone 2.1,targets the kappa opioid receptor.

“Our lab has been working on compounds that preserve the good properties of opioids and eliminate many of the side effects,” said TSRI Professor Laura Bohn. “The new paper describes how we have refined an aspect of signaling underlying how the drugs work at the receptor so they still suppress itch and do not induce sedation. Developing compounds that activate the receptors in this way may serve as a means to improve their therapeutic potential.”

Bohn said that isoquinolinone 2.1 is part of a new class of “biased” kappa agonists that avoid many central nervous system side effects.