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Treating alcohol addiction - monkey study

US researchers have found that alcohol addiction could be reversed with a gene therapy that ‘resets’ the brain’s dopamine levels, using monkeys.

A team led by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) repurposed a gene therapy that uses a protein called glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), and that is currently being trialled to treat Parkinson’s disease.

When injected into the brains of monkeys with alcohol addiction, the animals’ alcohol consumption decreased by 90% compared to monkeys that were not given the therapy.

GDNF protects brain cells, and the researchers saw that it was able to boost the function of neurons that produce dopamine, a chemical that is not released as much in people with alcohol addiction, which explains why they do not feel pleasure when drinking.

Kathleen Grant at OHSU said: “This was incredibly effective... It would be most appropriate for people who have already shown that all our normal therapeutic approaches do not work for them.”



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