Modern medicine is moving toward the idea of personalized care catered to an individual's needs; new research suggests such an approach may work for alcoholism. A recent study found key differences between the brains of alcohol-dependent mice and control mice that may help researchers develop personalized treatments based on someone's brain chemistry.
The new study, published online in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that when both alcohol-dependent mice and control mice were given alcohol, it led to increased activity in the central amygdala (CeA) region of their brain. However, the cause of this increased activity varied among the mice depending on whether they were hooked on booze.
For example, in control mice, increased brain activity was due to alcohol’s effect on proteins called calcium channels, which boosted the release of a neurotransmitter called GABA. Blocking these calcium channels reduced alcohol consumption in mice without a dependency. However, in already alcohol-dependent mice, increased CeA activity was due to a stress hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and its type 1 receptor (CRF1). In addition, the team found that blocking CeA and CRF1s reduced voluntary alcohol consumption in the dependent rats.
"There is a switch in the molecular mechanisms underlying the CeA's response to alcohol (from LTCC- to CRF1-driven) as the individual transitions to the alcohol-dependent state," explained study researcher Marisa Roberto in a recent statement.
While these findings may sound complicated to the layman, the researchers suggest they may have far-reaching applications. For example, understanding the brain chemistry of alcoholics could help doctors analyze symptoms and genetic markers, which in turn would allow them to better understand which patients are most likely to benefit from drugs targeted at blocking certain brain activity.
Other recent innovations in research for alcohol treatment suggested that a common asthma drug called ibudilast may help to reduce and control cravings for alcohol in alcoholics. In addition, the drug also helped to control users’ moods when they were deprived of alcohol, making the treatment a more enjoyable experience. The study was small, consisting of only 17 volunteers, but seeing as the drug is already regularly used for the treatment of asthma, particularly in Japan, scientists are aware of its safety. The drug is not yet approved for the use of alcoholism, but researchers hope future clinical trials further proving its effectiveness can help to change this.
Source: Varodayan FP, de Guglielmo G, Logrip ML, George O, Roberto M. Alcohol dependence disrupts amygdalar L-type voltage-gated calcium channel mechanisms. The Journal of Neuroscience . 2017