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Novel compound deters drinking in mice.

Relapses remain among the toughest hurdles alcoholics face while trying to avoid the drinking that often ruins their lives and indelibly scars their families. The urge to drink excessively, which most people do not feel at all, is enormously powerful in a significant minority of people. Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered something that might lessen the overwhelming compulsion to drink. Working with laboratory mice specially bred and trained to consume alcohol, researchers have demonstrated for the first time that they can curb mice's alcohol intake by treating them with a novel compound known as L-152,804.

Whether the substance will be effective and safe in humans has not been learned yet, however. If it is found to work in future tests, it will block or neutralize the action of a kind of neurotransmitter--chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other. "The experimental compound L-152,804 blocks the actions of one particular neurotransmitter called neuropeptide Y," indicates lead researcher Clyde W. Hodge. "This naturally occurring transmitter is the most abundant and widely distributed peptide in mammals' central nervous systems. Not only is it involved in anxiety, pain, and memory, but it also is the most potent stimulant of feeding behavior known. Neuropeptide Y has been implicated in overeating and obesity as well as alcoholism during earlier studies, including one conducted in our laboratory."

In their experiments, the scientists housed five dozen male mice in plastic cages with food and water readily available. Over four months, they trained the mice to drink as much as they wished of either alcohol or water during 16-hour sessions. They subsequently injected the rodents with varying concentrations of L-152,804 and again observed and recorded their drinking behavior. Three different strengths of the compound significantly delayed alcohol consumption in the animals.

"Most of the known compounds that target neuropeptide Y receptors do not cross a naturally protective barrier in the central nervous system known as the blood-brain barrier," Hodge explains. "However, this novel compound has been shown both to cross the blood-brain barrier and to block neuropeptide Y-Y5 receptors, which may be very good news in our attempts to curb alcoholism in humans."
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Title Annotation:Alcoholism; L-152,804 found to block actions of key neurotransmitter called neuropeptide Y
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:366
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