Researchers move closer to understanding the biology behind gamma-hydroxybutyric acid
In the 1960s, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) was first discovered as a naturally occurring substance in the brain. Since then it has been manufactured as a drug with a clinical application and has also developed a reputation as the illegal drug fantasy and as a date rape drug. Its physiological function is still unknown.
Now a team of researchers at the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology at the University of Copenhagen has shown for the first time exactly where the transmitter substance binds in the brain under physiologically relevant conditions. The results have recently been published in the scientific journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
"We have discovered that GHB binds to a special protein in the brain more specifically a GABAA-receptor. The binding is strong even at very low dosage. This suggests that we have found the natural receptor, which opens new and exciting research opportunities, in that we have identified an important unknown that can provide the basis for a full explanation of the biological significance of the transmitter," says Laura Friis Eghorn, PhD student.
Fantasy is also used as a so-called date rape drug, because in moderate amounts it has sedative, sexually stimulating and soporific effects. The compound is also abused for its euphoric effect, but in combination with alcohol, for example, it is a deadly cocktail that can lead to a state of deep unconsciousness or coma.
"GHB is registered for use as a drug to treat alcoholism and certain types of sleep disorders, but the risk of abuse presents difficulties. In the long-term, understanding how GHB works will enable us to develop new and better pharmaceuticals with a targeted effect in the brain, without the dangerous side-effects of fantasy," explains Laura Friis Eghorn, Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology.
Fantasy is an extremely toxic euphoriant, because the difference between a normal intoxicating dose and a fatal dose is so small. A better understanding of the biological mechanisms behind GHB-binding in the brain will benefit research into a life-saving antidote for this drug. Today there is no known antidote.
Statistics from Denmark in 2010 show that 8-10 percent of young people who frequent night clubs have had experience with Fantasy. However, since the drug is often also used in private for its sedative effect, it is difficult to estimate the extent of abuse.
The new research findings are the result of a collaboration between researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia and medicinal chemists at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences:
"Our chemist colleagues designed and produced special ligands that are mimics of GHB in several variations. This enabled us to go on a targeted fishing expedition in the brain. We have slowly found our way to the receptor, which we have also been able to test pharmacologically. In itself, it is not unusual to find new receptors in the brain for known compounds. However, when we find a natural match rooted in the brain's transmitter system, the biological implications are extremely interesting," explains Petrine Wellendorph, associate professor and head of the responsible research group that produced the pioneering results.
Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Provided by University of Copenhagen
- Promising new compound for treating stroke Feb 21, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- South African daffodils may be a future cure for depression Jun 22, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- New piece to the puzzle of brain function Aug 19, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- New knowledge on the pharmacology of dopamine stabilizers Feb 24, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Scientists map new mechanism in brain's barrier tissue Mar 08, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
16 hours ago Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
Trends in Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and smoking explain a significant proportion of the decline of intestinal-type noncardia gastric adenocarcinoma (NCGA) incidence in US men between 1978 and 2008, and are estimated ...
Medical research 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Widely available in pharmacies and health stores, phosphatidylserine is a natural food supplement produced from beef, oysters, and soy. Proven to improve cognition and slow memory loss, it's a popular treatment for older ...
Medical research 11 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Researchers at Emory University have identified a protein that stimulates a pair of "orphan receptors" found in the brain, solving a long-standing biological puzzle and possibly leading to future treatments for neurological ...
Medical research 11 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Australian scientists have charted the path of insulin action in cells in precise detail like never before. This provides a comprehensive blueprint for understanding what goes wrong in diabetes.
Medical research 12 hours ago | 4.4 / 5 (5) | 0 |
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine will study gender differences in how the heart uses and stores fat—its main energy source—and how changes in fat metabolism play ...
Medical research 15 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Native peoples in regions where cameras are uncommon sometimes react with caution when their picture is taken. The fear that something must have been stolen from them to create the photo ...
12 hours ago | 4.2 / 5 (5) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Despite spending billions of dollars on research and development, drug companies have been unable to come up with effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Now, A. ...
10 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (9) | 0 |
Activating an enzyme known to play a role in the anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction delays the loss of brain cells and preserves cognitive function in mice, according to a study published in the May ...
6 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
An experimental sleeping pill from US drug company Merck is effective at helping people fall and stay asleep, according to reviewers at the US Food and Drug Administration, which could soon approve the new drug.
5 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 0
A drug commonly used to treat depression and anxiety may improve a stress-related heart condition in people with stable coronary heart disease, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.
7 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Researchers at USC have found that a class of pharmaceuticals can both prevent and treat Alzheimer's Disease in mice.
9 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |