Drug decreases alcohol cravings

Nov 02, 2010 By Amy Pyle

Rapamycin, an FDA-approved drug prescribed to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs, has been shown for the first time to decrease excessive alcohol consumption, binge drinking, and alcohol-seeking behavior in rodents. The finding is in a study by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

The study, led by Dorit Ron, a Gallo Center researcher and a professor of neurology at UCSF, appears in the online Early Edition section of the .

The study demonstrated, also for the first time, that alcohol consumption in rodents activates a key signaling pathway in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region that in both rodents and humans is part of the that affects craving for alcohol and other addictive substances.

In the brain, that signaling pathway - a complex of proteins called the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin Complex 1, or mTORC1 — plays a significant role in learning and memory. "This makes sense," says Ron, "since addiction is a maladaptive form of learning and memory." She says that the mTORC1 pathway has been well-studied in other areas of the body, such as the immune system, "but has not been explored that much in the brain."

Ron notes that rapamycin specifically diminishes the rodents' craving for alcohol. It does not change their desire to consume sucrose. "This is significant," she says, "because current medications used to treat interfere with the brain's reward system in a larger way, blocking pleasure in general, which discourages people from taking those medications."

The study also showed that rapamycin does not lead to alteration of the rodents' general motor coordination or other taste preferences.

Ron emphasizes that the study was conducted on rodent models designed to mimic human drinking behavior, and cautions that rapamycin itself — a powerful drug with side effects — should not necessarily be considered for immediate use as a treatment for alcohol abuse. "The important point is that we have shown that the mTORC1 pathway is a potential drug target for alcohol abuse disorders," she says. "Our laboratory will continue to actively pursue this line of research."

Ron notes that rapamycin is currently being investigated for potential anti-tumor and other beneficial properties in animal models, "and a new generation of rapamycin-like compounds that targets the mTORC1 pathway is being developed. Some of these compounds look very promising."

Explore further: Missing protein restored in patients with muscular dystrophy

Provided by University of California, San Francisco

5 /5 (4 votes)

Related Stories

Excessive drinking and relapse rapidly cut in new approach

Jun 09, 2008

Boosting the level of a specific brain protein quickly cut excessive drinking of alcohol in a new animal study, and also prevented relapse -- the common tendency found in sober alcoholics to easily return to heavy drinking ...

Biochemical pathway may link addiction, compulsive eating

Sep 01, 2010

Ezlopitant, a compound known to suppress craving for alcohol in humans, was shown to decrease consumption of sweetened water by rodents in a study by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, which is affiliated ...

Recommended for you

Student seeks to improve pneumonia vaccines

15 hours ago

Almost a million Americans fall ill with pneumonia each year. Nearly half of these cases require hospitalization, and 5-7 percent are fatal. Current vaccines provide protection against some strains of the ...

Seabed solution for cold sores

17 hours ago

The blue blood of abalone, a seabed delicacy could be used to combat common cold sores and related herpes virus following breakthrough research at the University of Sydney.

Better living through mitochondrial derived vesicles

Aug 19, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—As principal transformers of bacteria, organelles, synapses, and cells, vesicles might be said to be the stuff of life. One need look no further than the rapid rise to prominence of The ...

Zebrafish help to unravel Alzheimer's disease

Aug 19, 2014

New fundamental knowledge about the regulation of stem cells in the nerve tissue of zebrafish embryos results in surprising insights into neurodegenerative disease processes in the human brain. A new study by scientists at ...

User comments : 0