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Interdisciplinary research team developing novel drug detection technology
Date:11/11/2009

Every time a person snorts cocaine, it doesn't just go to his or her head: It also provokes a response in the immune system, creating special biomolecules that may serve as a permanent record of each exposure.

With the support of a $2.7 million Recovery Act grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) an interdisciplinary team headed by Vanderbilt chemist John McLean and physicist John Wikswo will attempt to determine whether an individual's white blood cells retain chemical memories of exposure to drugs like cocaine and alcohol that can be read reliably and unambiguously.

The capability to characterize an individual's history of drug abuse should allow physicians to tailor treatment strategies on a case-by-case basis and the technology could provide new insights into the biological pathways that control addictive behavior, which is a first step toward identifying effective new treatments.

If successful, it might also provide the basis for a new technology for drug testing that could be more difficult to beat or evade than current tests that detect the presence of specific drugs or their metabolites in the body.

McLean, Wikswo and their collaborators at Vanderbilt, Cornell, Duke and NIDA will be using an experimental platform specifically designed to characterize millions of biomolecules and search them for various signatures. In this case, they will be analyzing a large suite of biological signaling and metabolic molecules in search of signatures that correspond to past exposures to cocaine, alcohol and other drugs of abuse.

"In essence, we are hitting these cells with a hammer to hear how they ring and to determine if those that have been exposed to a drug ring differently," said Wikswo, the Gordon A. Cain University Professor.

The new platform has a number of other potential applications. The researchers have also received a $1.5 million grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to s
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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert

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