Memory and Drug Addiction Research at UF
Imagine a world where you could erase memories. What kind of world would that be? Well, in today’s world, inside the field of addiction research a few scientists have achieved that feat. Scientists have managed to erase drug memories in the mind’s of mice.
Overcoming drug addiction is a struggle for many addicts. Part of the reason for this is because of the memories. The memories associated with being high and/or drunk can weigh heavily on the mind’s of addicts causing guilt, shame, remorse, and maybe even the desire to get high again when thinking of good times. For this reason, researchers have long sought a way to block or erase those memories, and a new study published shows progress is being made.
Using a new medication, researchers from the University of Florida managed to erase the memories associated with addiction in mice that had been exposed to methamphetamine.
But how do you select just the addiction memories?
The key to selecting the right memories is in the way they are stored. The memories stored immediately after taking a drug were found to be structurally (built) different than regular memories. And what that comes down to is the way an important structural protein known as actin stabilizes neurons.
The connections (i.e. memories) formed after taking a narcotic are never fully stabilized by actin like a regular connection (i.e. memory). Basically actin is like glue that holds memories together. And with drug memories the glue (actin) doesn’t set or dry. So the team began looking at ways to disrupt these weaker actin connections (memories.)
There was a catch though.
The problem is that actin doesn’t only have to do with the connection of memories. In normal language, actin isn’t glue that just holds memories; it also holds other stuff together.
The protein is found throughout the body and is in the extracellular matrix, in muscles, and in the cellular transport network. Basically, in Layman’s terms, this means that disrupting actin could have really serious consequences. Including, muscle weakness or irregular heartbeat.
So the researches changed focus. Instead they focused on an associated protein called non-muscle myosin IIB. Myosin is a motor protein, which means that it binds with actin filaments to generate mechanical force aka it moves things around. Other forms of myosin are at work in your muscles but this specific type can be targeted without the side effects.
New Medication Being Used
The study tested the effects of a new medication called Blebbistatin, which disrupts the activity of non-muscle myosin IIB. Blebbistatin was shown to effectively disrupt the memories associated with unstable actin (remember memories with unstable actin are addiction memories) for at least 30 days.
There is of course a lot of work that needs to be done before any humans will begin to try Blebbistatin. Researchers need to make sure this medication won’t affect any other types of memories and that there are no long term side effects. But as of right now, mice that were on meth are forgetting about. And who knows what else. Oh and just so you know, if this drug were to hit the market it wouldn’t be for another 5 years and that is even if it got approval.
What do you think? Would you take a medication that made you forget your addiction? Is this a potential cure for addiction? Let us know your thoughts.