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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

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats target billionaires

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After failing to get a deal on other planned tax increases, key Senate Democrats are pivoting to a billionaires' income tax to pay for President Biden's social spending.

The big picture: No advanced economy has attempted anything similar on such a scale.

Anti-abortion activists' Supreme Court dreams are coming true

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

This is the moment the conservative legal movement has been building toward for decades: The solidly conservative Supreme Court is about to hear two major abortion cases within a month of each other.

Why it matters: All of this is likely to end with significant new restrictions on abortion and a clear path for Republican-led states to win the next big abortion cases, too — the culmination of a long and bitter fight for control of the judiciary.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
6 hours ago - Economy & Business

Trump's volatile return to the stock market

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Donald Trump this week became both a meme stock and a social-media entrepreneur at the same time, by announcing that a new company called Trump Media & Technology Group was going to merge with an existing company listed on the stock market.

Why it matters: The medium-term promise of Trump's media company is that it will replace Twitter for anybody wanting to keep track of Trump's messages. The short-term promise is that it can be a hot new speculative vehicle for people wanting to get rich quick in the stock market.

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