A new poppy variety to check drug abuse

May 19th, 2008 - 11:25 am ICT by admin  

By Asit Srivastava
Lucknow, May 19 (IANS) A poppy plant that is difficult to extract morphine from? That is what scientists at the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), Lucknow, have developed in order to combat abuse of drugs produced from poppy. The new poppy variety is the first of its kind in the world, claim scientists who have been working on it for the past seven years.

“Unlike the original poppy plants, easy extraction of morphine is not possible from the new variety developed at our institute,” Ashutosh K. Shukla, a senior scientist at the institute, told IANS.

Unlike poppy plants that give out a sap from which morphine is extracted, latex formation does not take place in the new variety, he explained.

For his work “Functional genomics approach towards development of non-narcotic poppy”, Shukla received the Bio-talent Award at the recently-held Bangalore Bio-2008 biotech event.

Scientists said the objective behind developing the new poppy variety was to check the illegal production and use of heroin and morphine produced from the poppy plant.

“This novel variety will offer a cheap and permanent natural means for combating opium-linked social abuses across the world,” said a senior CIMAP scientist.

“We wanted to check illegal trade of morphine, which is converted into heroin. At the same time, we wanted the new plant variety to retain all the medicinal properties of the original poppy plant,” said Shukla.

He added the novel variety has similar therapeutic properties as the original plant. “As morphine is derived from poppy, it is used in cancer treatment. We have ensured the nature of morphine remains unaltered in the new variety.”

Cancer patients in advanced stages are given an analgesic that is primarily made from morphine.

After developing the new poppy variety, CIMAP scientists are now working to bring out morphological differences in the plant.

“If we are able to bring external differences between the new and the original plants, it will be of great help to narcotic officials to spot illegal poppy production in the fields,” said Shukla.

For this, CIMAP scientists are trying to change the colour of leaves and flowers of the new variety, he added.

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