OT, VP studied as novel psychiatric drug sources; consider gender-specific drug models

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado (July 19, 2005) Physiologists and medical researchers have long recognized the important endocrine roles played by the pituitary hormones oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (VP) on peripheral systems in lactation, uterine contraction and urine concentration.

Over the past few years, neuroscientists have begun reporting evidence solidifying the possible roles of OT and VP in social behavior, both normal (bonding, romance) and pathological (autism, aggression). In a recent human study, Swiss and American scientists have also reported that intranasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin increases trust between humans by reducing the anxiety of risks that arise through interpersonal interactions.

Robert Ring, a researcher with the Wyeth Discovery Neuroscience group, said that perhaps the time is right for drugmakers to take a closer look at the important roles these two substances play inside the brain. The pharmaceutical industry has been very successful in developing medicines aimed at regulating the hormonal effects of these two pituitary hormones on peripheral systems. Pitocin, an oxytocin-like molecule, was developed and commonly used to induce contractions during birth. Similarly, vasopressin receptors in the kidney and vascular smooth muscle have been targeted for the treatment of heart failure and other diseases.

Drug companies, however, may have "underappreciated the important roles that both the central vasopressinergic and oxytocinergic systems play in modulating neural-circuitry underlying many of the behavioral, neuroendocrine and autonomic features of psychiatric diseases,"

He noted that in the brain, oxytocin and vasopressin are not considered hormones, but act rather as "powerful neurotransmitters, regulating many of the same brain functions that are often disturbed in psychiatric disease." Not surprisingly, drug companies relatively recently have begun to "reexamine their extensive experience w


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