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Chronic Metamphetamine Abuse is Related to Cardiovascular Disease

Until about six years ago, methamphetamine use was seen mostly in the western and rural United States. Today, methamphetamine abuse has expanded rapidly throughout the rest of the country and across different ethnic groups. In recent years, the spread of methamphetamine abuse across the United States has been as rapid as it has been alarming.

According to the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 10.4 million Americans ages 12 or older have used methamphetamine at least once in their lifetimes for non-medical reasons.

The study showed that long-term methamphetamine use changes endogenous proteins in drug users, causing aberrant immune responses. As a result, increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines-proteins involved in immune response-may be a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism for the development of cardiovascular disorders such as vasculitus, an inflammation of the blood vessels.

Our previous studies showed that methamphetamine can glycate or add sugars to proteins, said Scripps Research Professor Kim Janda, who conducted this study in collaboration with Scripps Research Assistant Professor Tobin Dickerson and other colleagues. In this study, we found that the immune system responds dramatically to this methamphetamine-induced glycation, which may lead to vascular inflammation and deterioration if left untreated. These problems are the direct result of long-term methamphetamine abuse.

Previous studies may have missed the impact of chronic methamphetamine use on the vascular periphery, Janda said, because they focused on the response of the microglia-the immune cells of the central nervous system-and the appearance of methamphetamine-related neurotoxicity in the central nervous system.

The study found that there was a direct relationship between methamphetamine intake and the level of circulating antibodies in animal models. This immune response, cou
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