Cunningham noted that it is well known that an imbalance in the serotonin system in the brain is related to depression and anxiety; however, "our scientific advances are now bringing to light the importance of serotonin in cocaine addiction and implicate serotonin imbalance as a mechanism underlying certain behavioral traits that enhance susceptibility to relapse."
Individuals who tend to act on impulse and show elevated responses to cues associated with cocaine use have a higher incidence of relapse. Targeting individuals who express these behavioral traits is an additional unique and innovative aspect of these investigations.
"These factors are interconnected and appear to be related to an underlying imbalance in serotonin receptor function, providing an opportunity to individualize treatment strategies," said Moeller. "We believe that addicted patients who exhibit these particular traits will respond better to medications that selectively target certain serotonin receptors."
The serotonin receptor system, however, is complex, consisting of at least 14 different receptor proteins, and current medications that act on this system do not distinguish the receptor subtypes very well. Thus, there is a need to develop new compounds that selectively target the desired receptors.
That is where the chemists and cell biologists come in. "When new compounds are synthesized by Dr. Gilbertson's group, the effects of these compounds are first measured at the cellular level because it is much more efficient, less costly, and reduces the number of animal and human evaluations necessary," said Watson. These technologies will give the team n
|Contact: Maureen Balleza|
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston