JAN 15, 2020 12:38 PM PST

A New Drug Target for Substance Abuse

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Research carried out by the University of Minnesota Medical School indicates a new drug target for treating a drug addiction. Researchers note that the drug is finding "the hidden stars of the brain." The study was published in Neuron and indicates that targeting the calcium signaling of the star shaped neural supporting cell ‘astrocyte’ could decrease the behavioral effects of drug abuse.

"These findings suggest that astrocytes contribute to amphetamine signaling, dopamine signaling and overall reward signaling in the brain," says Michelle Corkrum said. "Because of this, astrocytes are a potentially novel cell type that can be specifically targeted to develop efficacious therapies for diseases with dysregulated dopamine."

One form of drug abuse comes from amphetamine as a result of dopamine disruption. Dopamine is one of the major molecules in the brain that contribute to learning and memory as well as motivated behaviors. It is believed that when dopamine is disrupted, that is when individuals are more prone to substance abuse, and in that case—amphetamine.

Learn more about substance use disorders:

In the study, astrocytes were found to respond to dopamine when calcium is increased in a region of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens—which is one the major reward centers of the brain. The increase of calcium was correlated with the release of ATP/adenosine to modulate neural activity in the nucleus accumbens.

They also found that amphetamine causes astrocytes to respond when calcium is increased.

"We were able to integrate the phenomenal resources that the U of M offers to conduct state-of-the-art research and work with numerous different core facilities, which played key roles in this study," Corkrum said.

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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