UC Irvine pharmacological researchers may have hit on a new way to battle cocaine addiction. Material they shared with Science Daily suggests that blocking a hormone related to hunger regulation can limit coke cravings.
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A study led by Shinjae Chung and Olivier Civelli zeroed in on how the melanin-concentrating hormone works with dopamine in the brain's "pleasure center" to create an addictive response to cocaine use. The researchers further found that blocking MCH in these brain cells limited cocaine cravings.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter essential to the normal functioning of the central nervous system. It also is associated with feelings of pleasure and is released in the brain during eating, sex and drug use.
"This discovery indicates that MCH is a key regulator of dopamine in a brain area associated with both pleasure and addiction," Civelli, the Eric L. and Lila D. Nelson Professor of Neuropharmacology, tells Science Daily. "We believe that efforts to target MCH may lead to new treatments to break addiction to cocaine and, possibly, other drugs, like amphetamines and nicotine."
The findings appear in this week's early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.