Scientists from the University of British Columbia have genetically engineered a mouse that is totally incapable of becoming addicted to cocaine.
Dr Shernaz Bamji, a professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological sciences told digitaltrends,“The purpose of our study was to understand a little bit more about the addicted brain and specifically to understand a little more about what’s going on at the cellular and molecular level.”
“Researchers are pretty confident now that addiction is a form of learning that goes a bit haywire in a particular circuit in the brain. To learn you have to strengthen synaptic connections, and this involves adding more ‘glue’, a protein called cadherin, which holds brain cells together to the synapse,” Dr Bamji added.
Scientists thought that if cadherin is added to the synapses which is found within the brain circuit and involved in addiction, it would lead to higher levels of addiction, as more glue should mean stronger synapses and more learned behavior, including pathological addiction. But, instead the researchers found the opposite.
A diagram showing synapses in the reward circuit of mouse when exposed to cocaine. sciencedaily
“We have a cage with three very distinct chambers in it,” Dr Bamji explained. “We take our mouse and give it cocaine and let it associate the cocaine ‘high’ with one of the three chambers. We train it this way for a number of days until it’s learned that it always feels the high in that location. When you allow the mice to freely move between the chambers, normal mice will always gravitate towards the chamber where it received the drug, which may indicate it’s looking for that high. But, the mice which had too much glue or cadherin at synapses didn’t behave this way. They didn’t kept going to the room where they received the cocaine, they seemed to be just as happy exploring all around the cage.”
This new study suggests a lot of intriguing things, including adding to the evidence that repetitive drug use has a lot to do with genetics and biochemistry. It also reveals the possibility of developing treatments for addiction.
Moreover, this new study is of vital importance because, scientists suggests that genetically engineering a mouse to be immune to cocaine addiction could help unveil the secrets of why some people become hooked on drugs and what we can do about it.
Information source: digitaltrends
Title image: newstatesman (Representative image)