Male and female infetility, menstrual disorder and now, alcoholism? A group of scientists have apparently found a 'one-in-a-million' drug that can actually treat all of those aforementioned health conditions!
Researchers at the UCSF-affiliated Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center came to this conclusion after analysing the findings of a study, which showed that 'alcoholic' rodents, when injected with the drug cabergoline, decreased their alcohol consumption and alcohol-seeking behaviour and were less likely to relapse.
Cabergoline, which is marketed under the trade name Dostinex, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration in pill form to treat conditions caused by excess of the hormone prolactin.
Lead researcher Dr. Dorit Ron, an associate professor of neurology at UCSF, said that cabergoline did not impact the rats' consumption of sucrose and, in a subgroup of binge-drinking mice, the drug did not appear to significantly affect intake of water or saccharin.
"This is encouraging because it demonstrates that cabergoline is specific for alcohol, but does not affect general reward or pleasure. One of the problems with some existing drugs to treat alcoholism is a side effect that decreases pleasure, making compliance an obstacle to sobriety," she says.
She has revealed that her study builds on an earlier, provocative finding regarding the protein GDNF (glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor), which her team had injected into rats' VTA (ventral tegmental area) brain region, associated with drug-seeking behaviour.
She says that her team's previous study showed that both heavy- and light-drinker rats lost at least some of their craving for alcohol upon being administered GDNF into their brains, and that the protein prevented the animals from relapsing after a period of abstinence.
She, however, adds that GDNF could not be used to treat alcoholic humans because its molecule is too large to cross the blood-brain barrier. n the present study, according to Ron, her team looked at cabergoline because it is one compound that has been shown in cells to increase the expression of GDNF.
For their study, she and her colleagues first trained some rats to press a lever to obtain alcohol.
The researchers observed that the rats injected with cabergoline were less likely to press the lever.
The higher the dose of cabergoline, the lower the number of lever presses reported.
Ron's team also observed that cabergoline injections led to a reduction in alcohol consumption among binge-drinking mice.
She said that further study revealed that cabergoline was effective in reducing both craving for alcohol and relapse to drinking.
Although the results of the study offer fresh hope to problem drinkers, Ron cautions that human clinical trials are needed before cabergoline can be safely prescribed, considering the fact that its higher doses have been linked to heart valve problems.
Ron, however, is hopeful that cabergoline may eventually be prescribed for other addictions, for a pilot study on cocaine addicts has shown a substantial reduction in the drug's use.
A research article on these findings has been published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.