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Drug found to cure alcoholic rats

June 10, 2008
Courtesy PNAS
and World Science staff

A nat­u­ral chem­i­cal sharply re­duced lab rats’ de­sire for al­co­hol and pre­vented their re­lapse in­to al­co­holic be­hav­ior, ac­cord­ing to re­search that sci­en­tists say sug­gests a po­ten­tial treat­ment for hu­man al­co­holics.

The sub­stance, called gli­al cell line-derived neu­ro­troph­ic fac­tor or GDNF, worked in as lit­tle as 10 min­utes af­ter in­jec­tion in­to the part of the rat brain re­spon­si­ble for drug-seeking, the sci­en­tists re­ported. 

They worked with rats that had been trained to press a lev­er at will to in­ject them­selves a with small dose of the in­toxicant. Even rats with a his­to­ry of fre­quent lev­er presses mostly spurned the wine-strength al­co­hol af­ter the treat­ment, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors said. More­o­ver, they re­ported, the ro­dents avoided re­lapse even af­ter be­ing de­nied the in­toxicant for two weeks.

The sci­en­tists, with the Er­nest Gallo Re­search Cen­ter in Em­ery, Calif., and the Uni­ver­s­ity of Cal­i­for­nia at San Fran­cis­co, de­scribe the find­ings in this week’s early on­line edi­tion of the re­search jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tio­n­al Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces.

GDNF does­n’t throw a wet blan­ket on all de­sire for all pleas­ur­a­ble sub­stances—it had no ef­fect on sug­ar con­sump­tion, the group added. They al­so re­ported that the drug worked only when in­jected in­to rel­e­vant brain zone, called the ven­tral tegmen­tal area. The sub­stance might work in hu­mans be­cause our brains’ ad­dic­tion wir­ing is si­m­i­lar to that of an­i­mals, the re­search­ers added.


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A natural chemical sharply reduced lab rats’ desire for alcohol and prevented their relapse into alcoholic behavior, according to research that scientists say suggests a potential treatment for human alcoholics. The substance, called glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor or GDNF, worked in as little as 10 minutes after injection into the part of the rat brain responsible for drug-seeking, the scientists reported. They worked with rats that had been trained to press a lever at will to inject themselves a with small dose of the intoxicant. Even rats with a history of frequent lever presses mostly ignored even easily available, wine-strength alcohol after the treatment, the investigators said. Moreover, they reported, the rodents avoided relapse even after being denied the intoxicant for two weeks. The scientists, with the Ernest Gallo Research Center in Emery, Calif., and the University of California at San Francisco, describe the findings in this week’s early online edition of the research journal pnas. GDNF doesn’t throw a wet blanket on all desire for all pleasurable substances—it had no effect on sugar consumption, the group added. They also reported that the drug worked only when injected into relevant brain zone, called the ventral tegmental area.The drug might work in humans because our brains’ addiction wiring is similar to that of animals, the researchers added.