DEC 30, 2017 3:50 PM PST

Link Between Cocaine Addiction & Mitochondria is Discovered

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Cells contain organelles called mitochondria that act as tiny powerhouses; scientists have known for many years mitochondria in the neurons of the brain are linked to brain disorders such as anxiety, the response to stress, bipolar disorder, and depression. Now, research by investigators at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) has found that in the cocaine-addicted state, mitochondrial changes take place in the brain. The scientists have also been able to prevent those alterations. This research has been published in Neuron.

Neurons from a mouse spinal cord. Credit: NICHD/ S. Jeong

The researchers used a mouse model that was repeatedly exposed to cocaine, and in those animals, the levels of a molecule that functions in a process called mitochondrial fission were found to be increased in the brain’s reward region. A chemical called Mdivi-1, a drug that blocks mitochondrial division, was used by the investigators to stop this change from happening. In addition, by genetic manipulating the fission molecule in mitochondria of brain cells, the scientists were able to block the response to cocaine.

"We are actually showing a new role for mitochondria in cocaine-induced behavior, and it's important for us to further investigate that role," said Mary Kay Lobo, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UMSOM.

After analyzing the mitochondria in mice that were given cocaine and finding the increase in fission, or mitochondrial division, in the major reward center of the brain, the work moved to humans. By assessing tissue harvested from postmortem individuals who had been dependent on cocaine, the researchers were able to confirm these alterations in the mitochondrial fission molecule in people. 

Dr. Lobo noted that this latest study might be beneficial to researchers aiming to understand the changes that occur in brain cells and mitochondria because of other addictive disorders. "We are interested to see if there are mitochondrial changes when animals are taking opiates. That is definitely a future direction for the lab," she concluded.

Learn more about the biochemical effects that cocaine has on the brain from the video above, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via UMSOM, Neuron 

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAR 05, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Insight Into How Food Texture Affects Taste
MAR 05, 2021
Insight Into How Food Texture Affects Taste
Food isn't only appealing because it tastes good. Appearance and texture are important too. When food gets mushy or sogg ...
MAR 12, 2021
Microbiology
Bacterial Proteins Form a Network to Attack Their Host Cell
MAR 12, 2021
Bacterial Proteins Form a Network to Attack Their Host Cell
Many bacteria that infect intestinal cells make and release bacterial proteins into their host in order to hijack cell f ...
MAR 30, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
A Pest Hijacked a Plant Gene To Use as a Toxin Shield
MAR 30, 2021
A Pest Hijacked a Plant Gene To Use as a Toxin Shield
Bacteria can share genetic material in a process called horizontal gene transfer, and recent work has shown that in anim ...
MAY 03, 2021
Immunology
Junk Food Helps Bad Bacteria Thrive In the Gut, Promotes Inflammation
MAY 03, 2021
Junk Food Helps Bad Bacteria Thrive In the Gut, Promotes Inflammation
We know that processed foods like ice cream, potato chips, and candy bars in excess can cause people to pile on the poun ...
MAY 09, 2021
Microbiology
Bacteria Can Read Genes Forwards or Backwards
MAY 09, 2021
Bacteria Can Read Genes Forwards or Backwards
One of the most basic processes in life in the creation of proteins from mRNA molecules, which are transcribed from DNA. ...
MAY 10, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
DNA Supercoiling is Found to Play a Role in Gene Expression
MAY 10, 2021
DNA Supercoiling is Found to Play a Role in Gene Expression
A cell has many ways to control gene expression, one of which is the structure of the genome itself; active genes have t ...
Loading Comments...