Washington | A drug approved for use in obese patients and type 2 diabetics may also help treat cocaine dependence, a new study has claimed. The drug, Byetta, is derived from a naturally occurring hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1, or GLP-1, which regulates feeding behaviour. Knowing what they did about GLP-1, researchers from University of Pennsylvania in US turned to it as a possible treatment for cocaine addicts. In a two-and-a-half year study of rats, researchers showed that when they activated GLP-1 receptors in the region of the brain that deals with reward behaviour, called the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the animals self-administered less cocaine.
It is the first time such a role has been shown for GLP-1 in the brain, researchers said. Physiologically, GLP-1 acts similarly in rat brains and human brains. Rather than injecting cocaine, researchers modelled the way a human would take the drug by offering the study rats a lever to press for intravenous infusions. Once the animals stabilised in their drug-taking regimen, they introduced the GLP-1 receptor agonist directly into the brain.
We are looking at what activation of GLP-1 receptors in the VTA does to the animal’s self-administration of cocaine. We were able to show a nice decrease in cocaine self-administration, said Heath Schmidt from University of Pennsylvania. Our interest is really to understand how chronic exposure to drugs of abuse changes the brain to produce addiction-like behaviours, Schmidt said. The drug, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already been proven safe for human use, researchers said.
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