Florida Researchers to Study Molecular Causes of Drug Addiction
Researchers from the Roskamp Institute and James A. Haley VA Hospital, both located in Tampa and affiliated with the University of South Florida, have received $5.85 million from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's research unit, the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center (CTAC), to study the molecular causes of drug addiction.
The research will help determine the feasibility of genetic typing of drug abusers and those at risk of abuse, and to help scientists understand how to disrupt the biochemical reactions that trigger addiction. To date, the search for genetic factors has been hindered because scientists have only been able to study one gene at a time. CTAC's funding will be used to purchase new gene chip and protein analysis technology, enabling researchers to study all 30,000 genes and their protein products simultaneously.
“When we talk about drug addiction, we're talking about a complex set of behaviors and attributes, based on what people look like and what they do,” said Dr. Michael Mullan, director of the Roskamp Institute and principal investigator for this CTAC-sponsored drug addiction study, in a press release. “No one knows yet what's happening at the biochemical level. This study will address that as we look for the chemical reasons for the behavior.”
The first phase of the study will focus efforts on identifying markers in the blood that indicate recent drug use. Once it's been determined which genes are expressed after exposure, the second phase will focus on understanding how those genetic expressions relate to addiction.
“Our research group has been pursuing the investigation of genetics in substance abuse for a number of years and the work we've done in the genetic study of Alzheimer's disease is critical to our being ready to pursue this line,” said Dr. Mullan. “At the molecular level, diseases are the same. Regardless of what we call them, they are still molecular problems. Learning how to study these molecular problems is the key to finding cures.”