Molecule of the Day: Diazepam/Valium
(C16H13ClN2O), also known as Valium, is a white solid that is of significant pharmaceutical importance. It is a member of the benzodiazepine family, which shares the similar bicyclic system comprising of a conjoined benzene and diazepine ring.
Diazepam is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, and this is achieved by its binding to GABA receptors on neurons. This causes the active site of the receptors to become a better fit for GABA molecules, resulting in a higher binding of GABA to it. This triggers a greater influx of chloride ions into the neuron.
Since the intracellular portion of the neuron is more negative than normal, the membrane is hyperpolarised to a greater extent. Consequently, a stronger stimulus is needed to trigger an action potential, which is created when a stimulus causes the membrane to reach the threshold potential.
Since the resting potential is now more negative, the action potential and thus firing of the neuron is less likely. This then produces the anxiolytic, sedative, amnesia-inducing, and anticonvulsant effects of diazepam.
Diazepam can be produced by various synthetic pathways; one such route is shown below.
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