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Brain contains cocaine-like chemical

cocaine and methamphetamine. Scientists have also measured increased levels of CART when cocaine was administered.

"This latest discovery about CART's cocaine-like properties gives us a potential therapeutic target for medications designed to treat addiction," said Kuhar. "Theoretically, it might be possible to modulate the neurotransmitter in such a way that craving for cocaine or methamphetamine might be altered."

The next steps will be to ascertain the role of CART peptide in other areas of the brain and possibly extend the studies to primates. As a consequence of animal studies on the effects of cocaine on the brain, scientists have determined that CART peptide also influences hunger, stress, endocrine control, and sensory processing.

In addition to Kuhar, the study's authors include Drs. Heather Kimmel and Wenhe Gong, Stephanie Dall Vechia, and Richard G. Hunter.

A nationally-known expert on the biological underpinnings of drug addiction, Kuhar has also been instrumental in the development of a new class of cocaine analogues called phenyltropanes. Kuhar's colleague at Yerkes, Dr. Leonard Howell, is currently testing the compounds as part of a five-year effort by NIDA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy to develop a medication for treating cocaine addiction.

Cocaine and methamphetamine are the only illicit drugs for which there exists no therapeutic substitute to control craving. An estimated two million Americans use cocaine and methamphetamine.


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Contact: Poul Olson
polson@rmy.emory.edu
404-727-9254
Emory University Health Sciences Center
18-Jul-2000


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