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NIH awards Scripps Florida scientists $2.3 Million to develop drug addiction treatments
Date:7/14/2010

JUPITER, FL, July 14, 2010 For Immediate Release A pair of scientists on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute has been awarded a $2.3 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research relevant to developing new treatments for drug addiction.

Patricia McDonald, an associate scientific director in the Translational Research Institute at Scripps Florida and an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics, and Theodore Kamenecka, an associate scientific director in the Translational Research Institute, are co-principal investigators for the five-year project funded by the NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The research will focus on indentifying compounds that affect the Neurotensin receptor (NTSR1), a receptor that appears to play a significant role in drug addiction because of its ability to alter levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.

"Despite almost three decades of work by the pharmaceutical industry and other researchers, there are still few compounds known to act on NTSR1," said McDonald. "This new funding will help us thoroughly explore the interactions between the receptor and its signaling pathways and its impact on dopamine, which helps drive addiction and relapse."

The neurotransmitter dopamine is released when addictive drugs stimulate a reward circuit in the brain. Drug-induced changes in the reward circuit then reinforce the link between the pleasurable experience and the drug, increasing the tendency towards addiction. Blocking the surge of dopamine could protect the brain from these addictive changes, while substantially reducing the risk of relapse.

Kamenecka noted, "Our grant was something special in the sense that the NIH was looking for something very specific new ways to accelerate the search for potential treatments of central nervous system disorders, which is what we expect to deliver. It also provides a good opportunity for Pat
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Contact: Miko Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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