September 5, 2012
A drug called (+)-naloxone blocks the brain’s addiction to heroin and other opiates.
BOB HIRSHON (host):
Blocking addiction, boosting relief. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
Researchers have discovered how to block addiction to opiate drugs like heroin and morphine using the body’s own immune system. University of Adelaide disease ecologist Mark Hutchinson says the immune system produces a protein called TLR4 that attaches to opiate drugs when they enter the brain. For addicts, this amplifies the drugs’ rewards and feeds the addiction. But a drug called (+)-naloxone stops TLR4 from attaching to opiates, so addicts no longer feel a high. Hutchinson says this could also be good news for people suffering from chronic pain.
MARK HUTCHINSON (University of Adelaide Medical Centre):
They may not need to have a dose increase of their opioid medication, because if we’re blocking TLR4 at the same time, we might be able to achieve far greater pain relief without having to go to really high doses of the opioid.
He says clinical trials on humans could begin within less than two years. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.