There is hardly any effective medications for cocaine addiction, but researchers have now discovered a new compound that can halt cocaine addiction, raising hope for new treatment for drug addicts.
The compound, named 'RO5263397', severely blunted a broad range of cocaine addiction behaviours, including relapse behaviour, said the study.
"This is the first systematic study to convincingly show that RO5263397 has the potential to treat cocaine addiction," said Jun-Xu Li, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at University at Buffalo in the US.
The compound targets TAAR 1, which is expressed in key drug reward and addiction regions of the brain. TAAR 1 is activated by minute amounts of brain chemicals called trace amines.
"Our research shows that trace amine associated receptor 1 - TAAR 1- holds great promise as a novel drug target for the development of novel medications for cocaine addiction," he said.
"Because TAAR 1 anatomically and neurochemically is closely related to dopamine (one of the key molecules in the brain that contributes to cocaine addiction) and is thought to be a 'brake' on dopamine activity, drugs that stimulate TAAR 1 may be able to counteract cocaine addiction," Li explained.
The researchers tested this hypothesis by using a newly developed TAAR 1 agonist 'RO5263397', a drug that stimulates TAAR 1 receptors, in animal models of human cocaine abuse.
"When we give the rats 'RO5263397', they no longer perceive cocaine rewarding, suggesting that the primary effect that drives cocaine addiction in humans has been blunted," said Li.
The compound also markedly blunted cocaine relapse in the animals. A preview article of the study appeared in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.