Sci­en­tists find ‘switch’ for co­caine ad­dic­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

Sci­en­tists in Shang­hai may have dis­cov­ered a way to turn co­caine ad­dic­tion on and off through a switch-like pro­tein.

Zhou Ji­awei, lead re­searcher of the team from the Shang­hai In­sti­tutes for Bi­o­log­i­cal Sciences un­der the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, said that as ad­dic­tion is be­ing formed, a pro­tein known as a dopamine trans­porter, or DAT, moves from in­side the neu­ron to the cell’s sur­face.

“We’ve found that the key dif­fer­ence lies in DAT’s lo­ca­tion in the brain,” Zhou said. “A coun­ter­move would block the mi­gra­tion so that the de­vel­op­ment of the ad­dic­tion may be put off.”

The team be­lieves the key to block­ing ad­dic­tion lies in VAV2, a small pro­tein that acts as a molec­u­lar switch to reg­u­late the mi­gra­tion of DAT. The dis­cov­ery of VAV2’s role may hold the key to co­caine re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ef­forts, ac­cord­ing to the sci­en­tists.

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