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Genetic link to cocaine addiction

Monday, January 11th, 2010 Genetic link to cocaine addiction

Scientists in the United States have found mechanism in the brain then may help explain why cocaine is so addictive.

The discovery may help in finding a cure for addiction to the drug.

Cocaine changes the pleasure circuits in the brain, which promotes cravings for the drug.

Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, said: “This fundamental discovery advances our understanding of how cocaine addiction works,”

“Although more research will be required, these findings have identified a key new player in the molecular cascade triggered by repeated cocaine exposure, and thus a potential novel target for the development of addiction medications.”

The study, published in Science, tested cocaine on mice. One group were given repeated doses of cocaine, whereas the second group were given a saline solution with a final dose of cocaine in order to assess the difference between repeated cocaine exposure and a one-time dose.

Researches say that the group of mice who were given cocaine repeatedly displayed dramatic alterations in their gene expression as well as a strong preference for the drug.

The study revealed that cocaine appears that cocaine plays a role in the control of gene expression and that by reversing the repression of the enzyme, known as G9a, they could inhibit cravings for cocaine.

Eric Nestler, director of the Brain Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said: “The more complete picture that we have today of the genetic and epigenetic processes triggered by chronic cocaine give us a better understanding of the broader principles governing biochemical regulation in the brain,”

He added that it could “help us identify not only additional pathways involved but potentially new therapeutic approaches,”

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