NIDA SCIENTISTS TARGET PROTEIN TO DEVELOP MEDICATION FOR COCAINE USE DISORDERS
- November 2, 2018
Over the past couple of months, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has made notable progress in the field of addiction studies. In a remarkable study, scientists discovered that rats that had previously been exposed to addictive substances (methamphetamine and cocaine) were naturally inclined to seek friendship over drug use. Likewise, additional studies targeted a molecule called PDTRP (receptor-type tyrosine-protein phosphatase delta), which could open the gateway for cocaine use disorder treatment. Now, more than a week later, NIDA researchers have made another amazing development in the field of addiction studies. Let’s take a closer look at the protein that may aid in the development of medication for cocaine use disorders.
Recently, Dr. Erin Calipari and Dr. Drew Kiraly (plus a team of colleagues from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York) made a breakthrough in addiction science. As part of their study, the doctors found a protein called G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor), which could possibly open the floodgates for the development of cocaine use disorder medications. Not demonstrating any addictive properties of its own, the protein could reduce motivation to consume cocaine without disrupting the reward center of a patient’s brain. In other words, the drug will help a person stop using drugs and still feel happy.
Mice and Men
So what exactly is this miracle protein? According to scientists, G-CSF is a protein that is produced by immune cells (and other cells) in the human body. Ultimately, it latches on to cell-surface receptors and produces a wide variety of effects.
As part of the study, the Mount Sinai group tested the effects of G-CSF on a group of lab mice that had been fed cocaine and only administered cocaine to a second group. After exposing the animals to behavioral tests, the scientists made the following notes about the G-CSF test group:
- The mice that had been given the protein exhibited more locomotor movement (back-and-forth, from one point to another) than the cocaine group, showing the detrimental effects of the stimulant.
- The “protein group” had a stronger liking for locations where cocaine had been administered.
- The “protein group” desperately sought ways to receive cocaine and exhibited stronger motivations to seek out the drug than the other group.
- Overall, the “protein group” consumed more cocaine, overall.
Likewise, lowering the G-CSF dose resulted in more positive side effects. After receiving a smaller dose of this protein, mice exhibited less motivation to seek out the stimulant.
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