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Scientists Find A Way To Turn Off Cocaine’s Appeal

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Aired 7/8/10

Scientists at San Diego-based Scripps Research Institute have identified genetic material that protects against cocaine addiction.

— Scientists at San Diego-based Scripps Research Institute have identified genetic material that protects against cocaine addiction.

MicroRNAs regulate gene expression in the brain, and Scripps scientists have learned these genetic materials have a great influence on how we respond to cocaine.

Paul Kenny studies the mechanics of drug addiction at Scripps' Florida campus. He says the brain produces a particular microRNA which makes people less vulnerable to addiction. In his lab, he boosted that substance in the brains of rats who had access to cocaine.

"The animals initially took a lot of cocaine, but instead of increasing their consumption over time, they actually decreased their consumption," said Kenny.

Kenny said using this form of gene therapy on humans has the potential to cure addiction, and it may also have an impact on other psychiatric illnesses. The Scripps study on cocaine addiction has been published in the journal Nature.

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