Sydney: A breakthrough could help drug addicts avoid distressing withdrawal symptoms.
Researchers have shown how a protein in nerve cells drives the withdrawal response, a complex and intensely unpleasant syndrome that includes chills, sweating, cramps, elevated heart rate and blood pressure and increased sensitivity to pain.
"We have identified a protein in nerve cells that is driving the withdrawal response," said MacDonald Christie, professor of pharmacology at the University of Sydney who was a study co-author.
"When we either remove that protein from the brain or block it with experimental medications, we can block withdrawal response and the aberrant activity of the nerves responsible for the painful withdrawal," Christie said according to the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The protein which researchers have identified is called GABA transporter 1 (GAT-1). It causes a problem due to its excessive electrical activity in the brain during withdrawal from opioids, a Sydney university statement said.
"The electrical activity of the protein becomes excessive in the withdrawal phase. This stimulates the nerves to behave aberrantly and causes withdrawal symptoms," said Elena Bagley, senior lecturer in pharmacology who led the study.
"This increased nerve excitability triggers the cascade of event that drives the opioid withdrawal syndrome," Bagley added. The researchers made the finding based on a mice study.