Gene module controlled by dopamine - the happiness hormone produces an agent that lowers blood pressure, find scientists.
This finding opens up new avenues for therapies that are remote-controlled via the subsconscious.
The endogenous hormone dopamine triggers feelings of happiness.
While its release is induced, among other things, by the "feel-good" classics sex, drugs or food, the brain does not content itself with a kick; it remembers the state of happiness and keeps wanting to achieve it again. Dopamine enables us to make the "right" decisions in order to experience even more moments of happiness.
Now, a team of researchers headed by ETH-Zurich professor Martin Fussenegger from the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) in Basel has discovered a way to use the body's dopamine system therapeutically.
The researchers have created a new genetic module that can be controlled via dopamine.
The feel-good messenger molecule activates the module depending on the dosage. In response to an increase in the dopamine level in the blood, the module produces the desired active agent.
The module consists of several biological components of the human organism, which are interconnected to form a synthetic signalling cascade. Dopamine receptors are found at the beginning of the cascade as sensors. A particular agent is produced as an end product: either a model protein called SEAP or ANP, a powerful vasodilator lowering blood pressure.
Based on the experiments, the researchers were able to demonstrate that dopamine is not only formed in the brain in corresponding feel-good situations, but also in nerves in the vegetative system, the so-called sympathetic nervous system, which are closely knit around blood vessels.