Enzyme Battles Addiction?

Published: 09/20/2011 by SOURCE: Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 12, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Ivanhoe Newswire)----Having a hard time trying to quit smoking or drinking? What if you were able to kick both habits at once? New findings may lead to a treatment that might be able to help you to do just that.

Research that was conducted by associate director and investigator Robert O. Messing, MD, UCSF professor of neurology, and researcher Anna M. Lee, PhD., at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco, found that an enzyme called kinase C (PKC) epsilon has shown the potential to help lessen cravings for nicotine, alcohol and other addictive substances by targeting the reward system; a complex area of the brain that affects cravings.

The study, which appears in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science for the week of September 12th, consisted of analyzing the habits of mice genetically engineered to lack the gene for the protein PKC epsilon over a period of four weeks.

Compared to normal mice, the mice lacking the enzyme consumed less of a nicotine-containing water solution. These mice also did not return to a chamber where they had been given nicotine unlike the normal mice, who continued to consume increased amounts of the nicotine solution.
Nicotine binds to specific nicotinic receptors located on dopamine neurons in the body and this causes dopamine to be released. Dopamine creates feelings of happiness and enjoyment and gives a sense of reward. Researchers found that mice lacking PKC epsilon were deficient in these nicotinic receptors.

“This could mean that these mice might not get the same sense of reward from nicotine or alcohol, the enzyme looks like it regulates the part of the reward system that involves these nicotinic receptors.” Messing was quoted saying.

Researchers are hopeful that this discovery may lead to a drug that could help eliminate addiction.

“The next step in the research would be to develop compounds that inhibit PKC epsilon; the ultimate goal would be medications that could be used to take the edge off of addiction by helping people get over some of their reward craving.” Messing was also quoted saying.