found that the frog skin toxin epibatidine, an analgesic hundreds of time more potent than morphine (SN: 7/18/92, p.
Nonetheless, epibatidine inspired the investigators at Abbott to explore whether some of the nicotine analogs being developed by the company for other medical purposes might equal the frog toxin's analgesic prowess--but not its toxicity.
One alkaloid, called epibatidine, numbs more effectively than morphine, and several others show promise as heart attack medicines.
It took a decade, but this spring, he and his colleagues described the structure of epibatidine in the April 22 Journal Of The American Chemical Society.
So by measuring the amount of absorption of each wavelength and comparing those data with absorption data from known compounds, Daly concluded that in one part of the epibatidine molecule, a ring with three double bonds connected five carbon atoms and one nitrogen atom.
They exposed it to a compound called acetic anhydride, which reacted only with the nitrogen in epibatidine, changing it slightly so it could be separated from the sample's impurities.
It turns out that the other nitrogen atom, which exists in the ring of the second fragment, made it difficult for chemists to get plain epibatidine.
For a year now they have sought to make epibatidine in the lab.
But during the 1970s, he began focusing on alkaloids that, like epibatidine, occur in trace amounts.