A simple drug could provide a potential breakthrough in the ability to treat alcohol addiction, researchers from Monash University and the Florey Institute have found.
The new study, led by the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, identified a potential therapeutic target to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) by targeting a specific receptor in the brain.
By targeting the muscarinic M4 receptor in the brain, researchers found both habitual drinking and the likelihood to relapse could be improved among people experiencing alcohol addiction.
Researchers performed genome-wide RNA sequencing and protein expression studies in human tissue samples from people with AUD and non-drinkers to uncover potential therapeutic targets.
They were able to confirm that the regulation of muscarinic M4 receptors occurred in the same brain region in an animal model of alcohol intake, which gave them confidence to investigate a small molecule that activates M4 receptors, and ultimately showed it could reduce alcohol consumption and prevent relapse of alcohol addiction.
Lead researcher Dr Chris Langmead, from MIPS, said the study’s findings could inform the treatment of alcohol addiction in the future.
“Alcohol misuse is a huge burden not just for individuals, but for families, communities and the economy. By identifying a potential therapeutic target, we’re one step closer to developing a new pharmacotherapeutic option for alcohol use disorder.”
Published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, the study provides a potential breakthrough treatment for alcoholism, one of the Australia’s biggest health concerns, with misuse costing the economy over $14 billion dollars each year.
Now that researchers know they can curb habitual drinking patterns and the risk of relapse, they will move to the next step of translating their findings into drug development.
Read the full study here