Promising New Drug Target to Help Reduce Cocaine Addiction

 – January 21, 2014  –– 

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have discovered a new molecular mechanism that could alter reward circuits found in the brain of those addicted to cocaine.  Study results show that though the DNA does not change, it leaves a "mark" on certain genes that encode synaptic proteins within the DNA. These marks indicate epigenetic changes that are made by enzymes and help alter the activity of the nucleus accumbens. By using a mouse model, the research team found that chronic cocaine administration increased the levels of an enzyme called PARP-1, creating changes in the nucleus accumbens that may alter long-term cocaine addiction.  “This discovery provides new leads for the development of anti-addiction medications," said the study's senior author, Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Friedman Brain Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  Kimberly Scobie, PhD, the lead investigator and postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Nestler's laboratory, underscored the value of implicating PARP-1 in mediating the brain's reward center. "It is striking that changing the level of PARP-1 alone is sufficient to influence the rewarding effects of cocaine," she said.
-Dr. Eric Nestler, Nash Family Professor & Chair, Neuroscience, Director of the Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
-Kimberly Scobie, Postdoctoral Fellow, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
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