What is it about?

Morphine is a strong pain-relieving medicine, but it works differently in children than in adults. This may be because children's brains have fewer protein pumps in their brain to pump out the morphine. Another possibility is that the same amount of morphine has a stronger effect in children. We have made a computer model to help predict how much morphine gets into the brain and how effective it works. We found that the protein pumps in the brain are not very active for morphine in children and adults, but the same amount of morphine is more effective in relieving pain in young children.

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Why is it important?

Our findings contradict the idea that children are more sensitive to morphine because they have fewer protein pumps and, therefore, get more morphine in their brain. Instead, our computer model suggests that the same amount of morphine is simply more effective at relieving pain in young children. This information could be used to determine the best doses of morphine for children.


It is crucial to find the right doses of drugs for children, but unfortunately, this information is often missing from medical research. Computer modeling could be a useful way to estimate the best doses of drugs for children, when there is not enough clinical data available.

Laurens Verscheijden
Radboud Universiteit

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This page is a summary of: Physiologically based pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic model for the prediction of morphine brain disposition and analgesia in adults and children, PLoS Computational Biology, March 2021, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008786.
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