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Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Scientists have discovered that a receptor in the body that THC binds to is malleable, re-igniting the possibility of drugs that mimic cannabis, Wired reported.

Why this matters: Researchers have long sought to develop chemicals that offer the benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief and anti-nausea, without the unwanted side effects of getting high.

How it works: When someone smokes, THC binds to CB1 receptors on the surface of cells in the brain, liver, lungs and elsewhere in the body. This interaction causes the cells to release chemical signals that lead to the typical side effects of smoking like hunger, anxiety, and euphoria, for example. Previous years of research suggested that CB1 receptors only responded to a specific chemical, like a lock and key.

The new discovery: Alexandros Makriyannis, director of Northeastern University's Center for Drug Discovery, along with a team of researchers from China, California, and Florida used X-ray crystallography to see the interaction between the receptor and compounds similar to THC. They found when THC-like molecules went into the receptor, it twisted to fit around the molecule and shrunk down to about half of its original size. Rather than react in a single, specified manner to cannabinoids, the receptors are flexible. "We want to make compounds that will modify the receptor differently, so we can make better drugs," Makriyannis told Wired.

Go deeper

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

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