Research leads to more effective methods of treating drug addictions

December 18, 2000

Jonathan Freedman, Associate Professor of Pharmacology in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University's Bouve College of Health Sciences, has discovered why people who suffer from drug addictions or chronic severe pain crave larger dosages of drug treatments over time.

The findings of Professor Freedman and his team resulted from a three-year project funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland. Freedman and his team discovered a specific molecular change in the brain, using a research method called "patch-clamp electrophysiology" on the surface of rat brain cells, one molecule at a time. They found that rats treated with morphine eventually needed higher dosages of drugs to achieve the same effect. Freedman and team hope this understanding will later give way to practical applications in human patients.

"Scientists have been looking for almost 30 years for the molecular mechanism of opiate drug tolerance," says Professor Freedman. "I hope that our discovery will be a significant step towards understanding it. Eventually, we may be better able to treat heroin addicts, and better able to help people like cancer patients who have chronic severe pain."

Professor Freedman's article, "Altered Gating of Opiate Receptor-Modulated K+ Channels on Amygdala Neurons of Morphine-Dependent Rats," was co-authored with Northeastern graduate students Xueguang Chen and Yong-Jian Lin and postdoctoral fellows Hector Marrero and Ricardo Murphy. The article was published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Boston-based Northeastern University, a private research institution, is a world leader in practice-orientated education. Building on its flagship co-operative education program, Northeastern links classroom learning with workplace experience and integrates professional preparation with study in the liberal arts and sciences.

Representing a wide variety of cultural and ethnic groups, nearly 12,000 undergraduates come from throughout the United States and dozens of other countries to experience Northeastern's dynamic learning environment.
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For copies of Professor Freedman's article, call Laura Schmidt at (617) 373-5739.

Northeastern University

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