A new study published in Neuron suggests a new neurological framework for treating addiction. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School found that stimulating cells they're calling "the hidden stars of the brain" can help regulate brain function as it relates to dopamine, one of the major reward molecules of the brain. Disruption of dopamine has been found to be associated with addiction-related disorders, such as amphetamine substance use and abuse.
The researchers focused on astrocytes, star-shaped cells long thought of as "support cells" of the brain yet ignored in terms of actively contributing to brain function. However, the Minnesota scientists found that astrocytes respond to dopamine with increases in calcium in the nucleus accumbens (another major reward center in the brain).
Researchers then looked at amphetamine because it is known to increase dopamine and psychomotor activity in organisms. They found that astrocytes respond to amphetamine with increases in calcium, and if astrocyte activity is ablated (surgically removed), the behavioral effect of amphetamine decreases.
According to Michelle Corkrum, co-leader of the study, "These findings suggest that astrocytes contribute to amphetamine signaling, dopamine signaling and overall reward signaling in the brain. Because of this, astrocytes are a potentially novel cell type that can be specifically targeted to develop efficacious therapies for diseases with dysregulated dopamine."
Corkrum and her research team stated that their next objective will be to explore what happens with repeated exposures, withdrawal, and reinstatement of amphetamine and how the stage of addiction or disease state could affect the need to increase or decrease the activity of astrocytes.
This research is still quite preliminary. Corkrum and her team were observing results in the brain of mice, not human subjects. Developing an intervention that might work in humans who are suffering from addiction is still a long way off. However, research trials of these nature are very promising. Examining the neurobiology of addiction and potential chemical interventions may be available to alleviate neurological dysfunction that leads to addiction is a step in the right direction. Treating addiction the way that we treat other disorders of the brain will help to de-stigmatize substance abuse disorder and hopefully lead to advances that will help reduce rates and severity of addiction.
Seattle Drug Crimes Defense
Many countries around the world take a different approach to addiction and behaviors commonly associated with addiction- addiction is viewed as a public health issue. Those suffering from substance abuse disorder are viewed as patients in need of treatment rather than criminals. Seattle has gained much well-deserved praise for its progressive approach to addiction and related behaviors, such as the diversion court program. However, there are still state laws that harshly penalize possessing and selling controlled substances. If you've been charged with a drug-related offense, contact the office of Steve Karimi today. Don't fight these kinds of charges without an experienced former prosecutor by your side.