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Mount Sinai researchers identify protein involved in cocaine addiction

January 16, 2018

(New York -Jan. 16, 2018) -- Mount Sinai researchers have identified a protein produced by the immune system--granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF)--that could be responsible for the development of cocaine addiction.

A study showed that G-CSF can alter a mouse's desire for cocaine, but not for other rewards. This effect is modulated by a brain region that plays a central role in reward processing and addiction. If applicable to humans, these findings represent a potential therapeutic approach to decrease a cocaine addict's motivation to seek the drug without introducing a potential new substance for abuse.

The results of the study will be published online in Nature Communications.

Previous research has demonstrated a link between cocaine use and the immune system in humans and animals, with addicts showing altered immune responses to drugs and drug cues. In this study, the research team identified G-CSF--a cytokine produced by immune cells which was expressed at higher levels in both the blood and brain in mice that were treated with repeated doses of cocaine --. Injecting G-CSF into the nucleus accumbens, a brain region associated with reward, causes mice to take more cocaine, but does not change their motivation to consume a more natural reward, sugar water. Conversely, injecting an antibody that neutralizes G-CSF in the nucleus accumbens can reduce the mouse's motivation to take cocaine. Taken together, the results from this study suggest that manipulating G-CSF in the reward center of the brain changes the biochemical signals that push animals to take cocaine.

"The results of this study are exciting because outside of 12-step programs and psychotherapy, no medication-assisted therapy exists to treat cocaine addiction," said the study's senior author, Drew Kiraly, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Drugs that manipulate G-CSF already exist as FDA-approved medications. Once we clarify how G-CSF signaling can best be targeted to reduce addiction-like behaviors, there is a high possibility that treatments targeting G-CSF could be translated into clinical trials and treatments for patients."
-end-
This study was supported by NIH grants DA044308, P01-DA008227 and DA042111 and from funds for the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the Leon Levy Foundation, and the Seaver Family Foundation.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest integrated delivery system encompassing seven hospital campuses, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai's vision is to produce the safest care, the highest quality, the highest satisfaction, the best access and the best value of any health system in the nation. The System includes approximately 7,100 primary and specialty care physicians; 10 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 140 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the renowned Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the highest in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding per investigator. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 18 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of top U.S. hospitals; it is one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Nephrology, and Neurology/Neurosurgery, and in the top 50 in four other specialties in the 2017-2018 "Best Hospitals" issue. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital also is ranked in six out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 12th nationally for Ophthalmology and 50th for Ear, Nose, and Throat, while Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai West are ranked regionally. For more information, visit http://www.mountsinai.org/, or find Mount Sinai on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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