Cocaine addiction: Scientists cure mice of dependency on the drug
Scientists have found that they can decrease appetite for cocaine by neutralising a protein molecule which is found in the blood and brain at higher levels in repeat cocaine users.
This raises the prospect for a safe medication for cocaine addiction by using existing treatments to tackle this biological system driving drug-taking behaviour.
The protein molecule, G-CSF, affects the reward centres of the brain and could become the first medication to help people beat cocaine addiction according to doctors, from Mont Sinai Medical Centre in New York.
“The results of this study are exciting because outside of 12-step programmes and psychotherapy, no medication-assisted therapy exists to treat cocaine addiction,” according to lead researcher Dr Drew Kiraly, assistant professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
The team found that injecting this G-CSF molecule directly into the brain’s reward centres, a region called the “nucleus acumbens”, led to a significant increase in the cocaine seeking and consumption behaviours in mice.
In trials mice treated with G-CSF worked much harder to seek out more cocaine as the strength of each dose was gradually lowered.
This finding is important, according to Dr Kiraly, because there are safe treatments already on the market which target this molecule in humans, primarily for kick-starting production of infection fighting cells after chemotherapy.