UC Irvine and Italian Institute Research Details at Cellular Level the Ravages of Meth on Faces

What happens at the cellular level to cause the faces of methamphetamine addicts to become ravaged and what can be done to limit the process have been unlocked by UC Irvine and Italian Institute of Technology research.


The research by Daniele Piomelli, the UCI Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences, and his IIT colleagues received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Through the examination of rats dosed with methamphetamine, the researchers found that its use caused abnormalities in cellular fat metabolism, triggering extreme inflammation marked by a considerable rise in the formation of ceramides, pro-inflammatory molecules that can foster cell aging and death.

After identifying the mechanisms that cause this, the researchers were able to zero in on existing inhibitors of the process, which succeeded in limiting ceramide formation. “These results suggest new therapeutic strategies to reduce the adverse consequences of methamphetamine abuse and improve the effectiveness of abstinence treatments,” says Piomelli in a UCI statement. He and his colleagues at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa are currently creating a pharmaceutical application of these inhibitor compounds.

Those colleagues include: Giuseppe Astarita and Agnesa Avanesian-Thomas of UCI; Benedetto Grimaldi, Natalia Realini and Abdul Basit of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia; and Zuzana Justinova, Leigh V. Panlilio and Steven R. Goldberg of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Their study results appear in the open-access online journal PLOS ONE.

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