Originally published by The Globe and Mail on January 30, 2017

Researchers in Alberta have discovered that a medication once used to treat gout is effective in reducing withdrawal symptoms in opioid-dependent rodents, raising the possibility it could one day do the same for humans.

The researchers, from the University of Calgary’s faculty of veterinary medicine and Hotchkiss Brain Institute, discovered that microglia – immune cells in the brain and spinal cord – have a role in causing opioid withdrawal, said neuroscientist and lead researcher Tuan Trang.

“We then found a key target on these cells known as pannexin-1 channels,” Dr. Trang explained in a phone interview from Calgary. “We took a step back and asked: Are there drugs that are clinically approved that can block this particular target?

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