Scientists find ‘switch’ for cocaine addiction
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.