CAMH protein discovery may lead to new treatment to prevent smoking relapse

October 22, 2012

For Immediate Release - October 22, 2012 (Toronto) - Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have identified a potential new approach to preventing smoking relapse, which occurs frequently in smokers who attempt to quit, despite current treatments.

"We have developed a protein peptide that may be a new type of highly targeted treatment to prevent smoking relapse," says Dr. Fang Liu, Senior Scientist in CAMH's Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Liu and her team initially found that nicotine exposure can enhance binding between two types of brain receptors - a nicotinic receptor and a glutamate receptor. They identified the sites where the two receptors bind together. With this information, they were able to generate a protein peptide to disrupt the binding of the two receptors.

Working with CAMH Senior Scientist Dr. Anh Dzung Le, the peptide was then tested in an animal model of relapse. As anticipated, it had the effect of reducing attempts to seek nicotine.

"These discoveries present an avenue to develop an anti-smoking medication that directly targets the relapse process by focusing on this brain target," says Dr. Liu, whose study was published online in the Journal of Experimental Medicine today. "We hope that it will lead to an alternative treatment for smokers who aren't succeeding with current smoking cessation medications." A year after treatment with current medications, only about 20 per cent of people remain abstinent, past research shows.

"As research continues, future steps are to determine how this discovery can be translated into a novel intervention for patients," says Dr. Liu. "We are optimistic that our findings will lead to new options for treatment for smoking, which is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and premature death in our society."
-end-
Media contact: Michael Torres, CAMH Media Relations, 416-595-6015; or by email at media@camh.ca

Anita Dubey, CAMH Research Communications, 416-535-8501 ext. 4932

Follow CAMH media updates on twitter: http://twitter.com/CamhMediaUpdate

Become a fan of CAMH's Official Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/CentreforAddictionandMentalHealth

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues.

CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit www.camh.ca

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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