UCLA researchers discover how drug binds to neurons to stop drunken symptoms of alcohol

FINDINGS: UCLA researchers discovered how an experimental drug, called Ro15-4513, binds to specific receptors on brain neurons, which helps explain how this drug stops the drunken behavioral symptoms of alcohol such as impaired motor coordination, memory loss and drowsiness.

The team showed in the lab that Ro15-4513 binds to and blocks alcohol action on these highly alcohol-sensitive receptors. The UCLA group previously found that these receptors are specific subtypes of Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA-A) receptors that play a role in impairing motor coordination caused by alcohol in experimental animals.

IMPACT: These studies are the first to show how the alcohol antidote drug Ro15-4513 binds to these GABA-A receptors. The research may lead to a better understanding of how alcohol works in the brain as well as help develop drugs that prevent alcohol actions such as a sober-up pill, and alcohol addiction medications and treatments. UCLA researchers also suggest in the future that it may be possible to harness the beneficial effects of alcohol on the body, including inducing sleep, enhancing mood or mirroring the positive effects of moderate alcohol consumption on the heart and brain.

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AUTHORS: Richard W. Olsen, Ph.D., professor and Martin Wallner, Ph.D., researcher, both in the UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, are available for interviews.

JOURNAL: The research appears in the May 8 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A PDF of the full study is available.

FUNDING: The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation, and the State of California for medical research on alcohol and substance abuse.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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