As further evidence of the interplay between cabergoline and GDNF, alcohol intake was tested on mice that had been genetically engineered to have a single copy of the GDNF gene, and therefore less GDNF in the brain. As expected, the scientists found that the drinking habits of these genetically modified mice were not affected by cabergoline.
Although the results of the study offer fresh hope to problem drinkers, Ron cautions that human clinical trials are needed before cabergoline can be safely prescribed. Higher doses of cabergoline have been used to treat Parkinson's disease and have been linked to heart valve problems.
"However," notes Ron, "we show that in mice and rats, a low dose of the drug is enough to reduce excessive alcohol consumption, alcohol seeking and relapse. The dose is similar to what is given to humans for the treatment of hyperprolactinemia."
Cabergoline may eventually be prescribed for other addictions. A pilot study conducted on cocaine addicts, cited in Ron's paper, reported a substantial reduction in cocaine use.
In the United States, 17.6 million people -- approximately one in every 12 adults -- abuses alcohol or is alcohol-dependent, according to the National Institutes of Health. But there are just three medications approved to treat alcohol dependence -- disulfiram (Antabuse), naltrexone (Depade, ReVia), and acamprosate (Campral).
Lead author of the study is Sebastien Carnicella, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the Gallo Center. Co-authors are Dao-Yao He, PhD, senior research scientist; Patricia Janak, PhD, associate professor of neurology at UCSF; Selena Bartlett, PhD, director of the center's preclinical development group; Carsten Nielsen, PhD, associate research scientist; and Somayeh Ahmadiantehrani, graduate student.
Research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the State of California for medical research on alco
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