A specific and remarkably small fragment of RNA appears to protect rats against cocaine addiction - and may also protect humans, according to a recent study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health. The study was published today in the journal Nature.
RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules are known to play critical roles in the translation of genetic information (DNA) into proteins, which are the building blocks of life. In the past decade, scientists have begun to notice, catalogue and characterize a population of small RNAs, called microRNAs, that represent a new class of regulatory molecules. In this study, researchers at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida found that cocaine consumption increased levels of a specific microRNA sequence in the brains of rats, named microRNA-212. As its levels increased, the rats exhibited a growing dislike for cocaine, ultimately controlling how much they consumed. By contrast, as levels of microRNA-212 decreased, the rats consumed more cocaine and became the rat equivalent of compulsive users.
MicroRNA-212 is a type of small non-protein coding RNA that can regulate the expression levels of hundreds or even thousands of genes. As such, microRNA-212 and other types of microRNAs are considered "master regulators" of gene expression. Because of their ability to coordinate the expression of related genes responsible for brain structure and function, it is thought that microRNAs might play important roles in complex psychiatric disorders, but little has been known about their involvement in addiction—until now.
What the new findings suggest, Kenny said, is that individuals with serious addiction problems may have damaged supplies of this particular non-coding RNA, or the microRNA may not function properly.
"Looking into the future," he said, "It might be possible to develop a small molecule therapeutic that mimics or stimulates the production of this particular microRNA. Once we understand the precise mechanism, we might uncover novel targets that would have a similar effect to acting on the microRNA directly."
Addictions will become curable. Got an addiction you want to cure? If so, is it an interesting addiction?
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2010 July 08 09:13 PM Brain Addiction|