JUPITER, Fla., July 8 (UPI) — Scientists in Florida said they uncovered a natural mechanism controlling cocaine use, suggesting a potential new method to treat cocaine addiction.
The Scripps Research Institute researchers studied the presence of the molecule, called microRNA-212, in the brains of test animals with access to cocaine, the institute said in a release.
The findings were published Thursday in an advance, online edition of the journal Nature.
“The key question that the study may answer is why one person is more vulnerable to the effects of cocaine than another,” said team leader Paul Kenny, associate professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics at the Jupiter, Fla., facility. “What we found is that a specific microRNA exerts enormous control over the response to the drug. When it is increased in the brain, it protects against addictive behavior, while a reduction raises vulnerability to addictive behaviors.”
The key outcome of an increased presence of microRNA-212 is “it slams the brakes on any desire to take the drug,” Kenny said.
The findings suggest individuals with serious addiction problems may have damaged supplies of this particular non-coding RNA, or the microRNA may not function properly, he said.
“Looking into the future,” Kenny said, “It might be possible to develop a small molecule therapeutic that mimics or stimulates the production of this particular microRNA.”
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