Sunday July 22, 2018

New Therapy Could Help Combat Drug Addiction

In their experiment, the researchers trained rats to press on a lever for cocaine infusions at certain light cues

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New Therapy Could Help Combat Drug Addiction
New Therapy Could Help Combat Drug Addiction. Pixabay
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Researchers have developed a treatment that may help reverse chemical imbalances made to the brain by habitual drug use and could one day help recovering drug addicts avoid future drug use.

When tested on rats, the new treatment was effective in reducing the animals’ cravings, according to the findings published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

When someone habitually misuses drugs, their brain chemistry is changed in ways that make it harder for them to quit taking drugs despite negative consequences.

Once someone has developed this brain disorder, their mind pays sharper attention to cues that encourage drug use, making it harder for them to abstain.

Serotonin, a brain chemical that transmits information between neural regions, is a key player in these changes.

The researchers found that the serotonin 2C receptors in drug addicts do not work as well as they should.

drugs
Representational image. Pixabay

The team led by researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in the US designed, synthesised and pharmacologically evaluated a series of small molecule therapeutics designed to restore the weakened signalling.

The findings showed that the novel therapeutic may help reverse chemical imbalances made to the brain by habitual drug use.

In their experiment, the researchers trained rats to press on a lever for cocaine infusions at certain light cues.

Once the rats learned this cocaine-seeking behaviour, half of them received the most promising therapeutic and the other half received only saline.

Also Read: HIV Drug Is Not Linked to Depression: Study

The findings showed that the animals treated with the new therapeutic pressed the lever for cocaine far fewer times than the saline-treated control animals, even when reinforced with the cocaine-associated light cues.

“We are the first to show that a serotonin 2C receptor therapeutic of this type can be successfully used to decrease drug-seeking behaviours,” said Kathryn Cunningham, Director of Center for Addiction Research at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

“Our findings are especially exciting because in addition to someday helping people to recover from drug addiction, impaired functioning of the serotonin 2C receptor is also thought to contribute to other chronic health issues such as depression, impulsivity disorders, obesity and schizophrenia,” Cunningham added. (IANS)

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Immunotherapy Becomes World’s First Therapy which Cured Breast Cancer

A "highly personalized" anti-cancer therapy

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Research technician Ashwini Balakrishnan works in the immunotherapy research lab of Dr. Stanley Riddell at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, March 28, 2017.
Research technician Ashwini Balakrishnan works in the immunotherapy research lab of Dr. Stanley Riddell at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, March 28, 2017. VOA

A woman with an aggressive form of breast cancer which defied chemotherapy and spread to other organs, was cured with an experimental treatment that triggered her immune system, researchers said Monday.

The woman has been cancer-free for two years, reported the U.S.-based team, presenting their results as “a new immunotherapy approach” for the treatment of patients with a late-stage form of the disease.

Other experts not involved in the work hailed it as “exciting”.

So-called “immunotherapy” has already been shown to work in some people with cancer of the lung, cervix, blood cells (leukaemia), skin (melanoma) and bladder.

But an immune breakthrough for bowel, breast and ovary cancer has remained elusive.

In the latest study, a team extracted immune cells called lymphocytes from the patient, tweaked them in the lab, then reinjected them.

Cancer patient
Cancer patient, flickr

The woman was 49 when she signed up for the clinical trial after several attempts at a cure through conventional treatments had failed, said the study published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine.

The cancer had spread to various parts of her body, including the liver.

A person’s immune system is designed to kill invaders, including rogue, cancerous cells. But it can fail, often because it cannot recognize cancer cells containing the patient’s own DNA.

Immunotherapy trains a patient’s own immune cells to recognize and fight cancer.

For the new study, researchers took lymphocytes from a tumor in the woman’s body and scanned them for specific types which reacted to mutant, cancerous cells.

Complete regression

These were reactivated or “switched on” in the lab and injected back, along with a so-called “immune checkpoint inhibitor” — another type of immunotherapy that has shown success in other types of cancer.

Cancer survivor
Cancer survivor, flickr

This resulted in a “highly personalized” anti-cancer therapy that yielded “complete tumor regression,” the researchers wrote.

In a comment also published by Nature Medicine, expert Laszlo Radvanyi from Canada’s Ontario Institute for Cancer Research said the woman’s response to the treatment was “unprecedented” for such advanced breast cancer.

This work showed “we are now at the cusp of a major revolution in finally realizing the elusive goal of being able to target the plethora of mutations in cancer through immunotherapy,” he wrote.

In a reaction via the Science Media Centre in London, immunotherapy professor Alan Melcher of The Institute of Cancer Research said the trial was “fascinating and exciting.”

The work “provides a major ‘proof-of-principle’ step forward, in showing how the power of the immune system can be harnessed to attack even the most difficult-to-treat cancers,” he said.

Peter Johnson, an oncology professor at the Cancer Research UK Centre, said the study confirmed the immune system can recognize some cancers, and “if this can be stimulated in the right way, even cancers that have spread to different parts of the body may be treatable.”

The technique is “highly specialized and complex”, he cautioned, and may not be suitable for many patients. (VOA)