New anti-depression drug may also treat alcohol use disorder

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In a study from Scripps Research, scientists found an experimental antidepressant compound with a potentially unique mechanism of action may also be effective against alcohol use disorder.

The researchers found that several weeks of treatment with the molecule MAP4343 reversed excessive alcohol intake in mice.

These promising results suggest that scientists should test MAP4343 in people as a treatment for alcohol use disorder.

MAP4343, a steroid-type molecule, is currently being tested in clinical studies as an antidepressant.

Researchers estimate that more than 100 million people around the world have an alcohol use disorder and that it accounts for more than five percent of the total global burden of disease and injury.

There is a strong need for better treatments since current options, which include the drug naltrexone, usually fail to prevent a relapse.

Traditionally, researchers have sought to treat alcohol use disorder by blocking the rewarding effects of drinking alcohol—as naltrexone does—or by reversing the anxiety and malaise that arise after alcohol withdrawal and promote relapse.

However, recent studies have found evidence that alcohol use disorder can disrupt the normal production and/or regulation of key structural proteins in brain cells.

In the new study, the team tested MAP4343 on mice with alcohol use disorder.

They found when treated for six weeks with MAP4343, alcohol-dependent mice reduced their average daily alcohol drinking to around the levels seen in non-dependent control mice.

MAP4343 also normalized blood levels of the stress hormone corticosterone, which are lower in alcohol-dependent animals forced to abstain from alcohol drinking.

The researchers conclude that MAP4343 should also be clinically tested against alcohol use disorder.

Understanding MAP4343’s precise mechanism of action is another key remaining goal.

In this study, the researchers found that alcohol-dependent mice experiencing alcohol withdrawal have unusually low levels of a modified form of tubulin (called acetylated α-tubulin) in the medial prefrontal cortex.

This brain region is known to help regulate alcohol consumption and is often weakened in alcohol use disorder.

If you care about health, please read studies about the root cause of alcohol addiction, and a new way to treat alcohol-associated liver disease.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about a new therapy for fatty liver disease, and results showing light alcohol drinking cannot boost your heart health.

The study was conducted by Candice Contet et al and published in Neuropsychopharmacology.

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