New Drugs Could Help Treat Addiction
Scientists are zeroing in on a new treatment for disorders, including pain and addiction.
The two drugs the researchers developed target an element of nerve cells, the kappa opiod receptor (KOR), which plays a role in the release of the pain-fighting neurotransmitter dopamine. But although they’re associated with a positive therapeutic effect, KORs also prompt the release of a molecule, beta arrestin, that’s been linked with depressed mood.
“Compounds that act as kappa receptors may provide a means for treating addiction and for treating pain; however, there is the potential for the development of depression or dysphoria associated with this receptor target,” said study leader Laura Bohn, an associate professor at the Florida campus of the Scripps Research Institute. “Developing compounds that activate the receptors without recruiting beta arrestin function may serve as a means to improve the therapeutic potential and limit side effects.”
The new compounds devised by the researchers are called “biased agonists.” They activate he receptor without engaging the beta arrestins. The avoidance of depression, the researchers said, is especially important in addiction treatment, where a depressed mood can lead to a relapse.
The findings were reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.