Drug decreases alcohol cravings

November 2, 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: Brain chemical linked to alcohol desire

Related Stories

Brain chemical linked to alcohol desire

December 25, 2006

Australian scientists have identified a brain system that could not only blunt an alcoholic's craving for booze, but also the addiction.

Excessive drinking and relapse rapidly cut in new approach

June 9, 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

September 1, 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

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.