Future medicines could suppress alcohol craving

Alcoholism is a major public health issue with far-reaching medical, social and economic consequences for both the individual and society in general. Unfortunately the medications currently available work for only a small minority of patients – there is a real need for new alternatives.

Alcohol activates the brain’s dopamine-mediated reward system, an ancient and important neural circuit that brings about wellbeing through behaviour that promotes survival, such as eating and reproduction. The release of dopamine causes most people to become excited and stimulated, and may have strong motivational effects that compel us to drink alcohol again.

“In the case of alcohol dependence, the nerve cells adapt to the alcohol and the reward system is rewired so that the person has to drink to be able to function and feel normal,” says Helga Höifödt Lidö, author of the thesis.”The decreased sensitivity of the reward system bring about a wave of secondary effects that produces enduring pathology.”

Until now it has not been known how alcohol releases dopamine in the brain. Höifödt Lidö’s research group, led by professor Bo Söderpalm, has been investigating the effects of alcohol on the reward system and has discovered, among other things, that the glycine receptor is an important access point for alcohol.

Höifödt Lidö has investigated this further in her thesis. Her results now show that glycine reuptake inhibitors – substances that block the reuptake of the amino acid glycine – could be a new concept for the treatment of alcoholism, and such a drug is now being tested in a clinical study of alcoholics. These substances could also prevent the development of alcohol dependency in people whose consumption is already risky.

“My thesis results demonstrate that two different glycine reuptake inhibitors offer a robust and long-term reduction in alcohol consumption in rats and, at the same time, counteract the dopamine-stimulating and rewarding effects of alcohol.”

The thesis is a good example of how hypothesis-driven basic research can generate ideas for new approaches to the treatment of major diseases.

For further information:
PhD student Helga Höifödt Lidö, telephone: +46 (0)31 786 3919, +46 (0)70 917 9311, e-mail: [email protected]

Supervisor: Professor Bo Söderpalm, telephone: +46 (0)31 342 6401, e-mail: [email protected]
Opponent: Professor Rainer Spanagel, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Doctoral thesis for the degree of PhD (Medicine) at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

Title of thesis: Preclinical Investigations of GlyT-1 Inhibition as a New Concept for Treatment of Alcohol Dependence

Download the full thesis from: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/23941