Epigenetics and addiction: Enzyme could help treat cocaine, alcohol and opioid dependence

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Previously, it had been studied that an epigenetic drug could alter DNA methylation in the brain during drug withdrawal with hopes in halting addiction. Thanks to a recent epigenetic research study, the quitting process could become a little less painful with help from a key epigenetic enzyme.

[A new study] found that [histone deacetylase 5] has the ability to hinder the rodent brain from forming connections between environmental cues and cocaine use. HDAC5 is found in high abundance in the neurons of the reward center of the brain called the nucleus accumbens or NAc. The NAc operates on two essential “feel good” neurotransmitters called serotonin and dopamine, which is why this area of the brain responds strongly to alcohol, opioids, cocaine and other drugs. When HDAC5 is present in the nucleus of these neurons, it alters the DNA packaging in the cells and can prevent certain genes from activating.

Though this study was conducted on rats, HDAC5 treatment shows promise against human addiction as animals and humans share a similar brain structure and enzymatic pathways. [Researcher Christopher Cowan] hopes that the discoveries made in this study can apply to not only cocaine addiction, but alcohol and opioid dependence as well.

[Editor’s note: Read the full study]

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Glimmer of Hope in the Ugly Face of Addiction: Epigenetics May Help Prevent Relapse