New Method for Testing Efficacy of Alcoholism Drugs

Beckman Institute researcher Justin Rhodes, a member of the NeuroTech group, is collaborating on a project that is pioneering in its use of mice for screening new compounds for their effectiveness in treating alcoholism. The models test the effectiveness of these compounds in reducing high levels of ethanol drinking, and they are useful for identifying genetic and neurobiological mechanisms involved in addictive behavior.

Targeted drug delivery is a focus of many medical science research projects, including those developing pharmaceutical treatments for addictions like alcoholism. Currently, drugs such as Naltrexone and Acamprosate are prescribed for treating alcoholism, but they can also dampen the pleasure patients receive from activities such as eating and exercise.

Beckman Institute researcher Justin Rhodes, a member of the NeuroTech group, is collaborating on a project that is pioneering in its use of mice for screening new compounds for their effectiveness in treating alcoholism. The models test the effectiveness of these compounds in reducing high levels of ethanol drinking, and they are useful for identifying genetic and neurobiological mechanisms involved in addictive behavior.

The work of Rhodes and his collaborators has been described in a paper, Acute effects of Naltrexone and GBR 12909 on ethanol drinking-in-the-dark in C57BL/6J mice, that was published earlier this year in the online version of Psychopharmacology.

The study looked at the effects of Naltrexone and GBR12909, a new compound that blocks the dopamine up transporter protein involved in addiction, using a procedure called drinking in the dark (DID). Rhodes said the study found that GBR1290 did not target the ethanol specifically; rather it "reduces drinking for alcohol but it also reduces the drinking for sugar water. So it seems that whatever mechanism that the dopamine transporter is playing in drinking is fairly non-specific and it's also playing a role in other kinds of rewards."

However, the results did show that the DID model demonstrated predictive validity and therefore could be a useful screening tool for new medications that target the rewards associated with alcoholism.

"The only way you can develop drugs is if you are able to target the pathology, you can't just interfere with regular motivation for everything," Rhodes said. "You have to be somewhat specific."

For more on the paper, click here.