UNMC researchers may have the key to stopping meth addiction

A multi-year study has turned up a molecular process that could lead to relapse.

OMAHA, Neb. (KLKN) – Addition doesn’t usually happen overnight. There’s a lot of build-up as the brain gets used to the good feeling it’s getting from drugs.

With five years behind them, and perhaps another five years to go, University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers may have discovered one of the keys to curbing addiction and relapse when it comes to people who use methamphetamines.

Associate Professor of Anesthesiology Dr. Sowmya Yelamanchili led the study, and she says addiction is “not just a neurocircuitry process, but a molecular process”. She says the study was based on that concept and trying to determine what other molecules are a part of the process.

The team discovered micro RNA 29a, a kind of light switch that leads to chronic inflammation of the brain. That inflammation has been linked to meth use.

“We have seen that this biomarker stays pretty up in these users”, says Dr. yelaman chili. “So that’s a sort of biomarker we can look into if a person is going into relapse.”

From here, they want to make a drug that can reverse the trend. The study is showing promise in animals, and an eventual goal is to test with people.

“That’s the ray of hope for the study, is to really provide that human translation and relevance”, Dr. Yelamanchili says. “If we can reach that far, I think we have done well.”

That phase of the study is still quite a ways off, even years. In fact, it’s likely that the study is only around halfway complete. But to help people who are living with methamphetamines, it may be worth the wait.

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