Emerging research suggest genetic impairment can increase the risk of opioid addiction as well as binge-eating in female mice.
Investigators from Boston University Medical Center discovered dysfunction of the gene, casein kinase1-epsilon (CSNK1E), increases opioid’s euphoric response and produces a marked increase in sensitivity to binge eating.
Interestingly, the enhanced sensitivity was discovered in a female mouse model but not in the male. Findings may imply that a distinct strategy may need to be used for treatment of men and women addictions, even when the addictions are the same.
Investigators explain that similar to opioid addiction, very little is known regarding the genetic basis of binge eating.
These combined findings provide further support indicating that shared genetic factors may underlie behavioral traits associated with the addictions and eating disorders.
Furthermore, they also provide an important clue that the genetic basis of binge eating and eating disorders in women versus men is likely to differ.
The findings appear online in the journal Genes, Brain and Behavior.
Researchers said addiction is a multi-stage process that begins with drug exposure and the initial pleasurable experience. It then progresses toward tolerance, dependence, physiological and emotional withdrawal upon cessation of use, protracted withdrawal that can last years, and finally, relapse to drug taking.
The genes associated with risk for opioid addiction could potentially affect one or more of these stages.
“Because increasing evidence points toward an association between CSNK1E and opioid addiction in humans, our findings indicate that genetic variation in the gene could function as a potential risk factor.
That is, the genetic dysfunction that influences the initial pleasurable/euphoric response to opioids could ultimately have implications for personalized medicine with regard to drug choice for therapeutic treatment (e.g., non-opioid pain relief) and therapeutic dosing of opioids,” explained corresponding author Camron Bryant, Ph.D..
The researchers also believe the female-specific binge eating property associated with Csnk1e dysfunction suggests genetic impairment on a different part of the chromosome.
Detection of a different genetic loci for binge eating and eating disorders in women versus men may lead to sex-specific treatments for eating disorders.
According to the researchers the gene may also play a role in a subset of patients with alcohol use disorders. Additionally, CSNK1E is known to be a crucial player in regulating circadian rhythms.
“The potential interaction of CSNK1E with circadian biology in affecting addiction is an unexplored area of investigation that could be a crucial piece to the puzzle in fully understanding its role in the addictions,” said Bryant.