Because these cells are critical in the regulation of voluntary movement, the findings, the researchers say, may lead to better therapies for neurological diseases like Parkinson's.
Led by Jack Lipton, PhD, professor of psychiatry, the study was presented today as an abstract at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Atlanta.
"We're certainly not suggesting that this drug be used to treat diseases," said Lipton. "But finding new methods to enhance the survival of dopamine neurons is critical in developing new drugs for diseases such as Parkinson's.
"While MDMA itself isn't likely to be an appropriate therapy for neurodegenerative diseases, it may provide insights for developing new drugs that have similar properties.
"It's exciting to learn that an abused drug may have potential use for developing new therapeutics," he added. "It really makes you rethink your own preconceptions."
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has been found to regulate movement, balance, emotion and motivation, and it also affects pleasurable feelings in the brain. Researchers know that a loss of dopamine cells in the brain leads to the development of Parkinson's disease and possibly other movement disorders. Preventing dopamine cells from dying or aiding in the replacement of those cells is key to finding lasting therapies.
Lipton, director of the developmental neuroscience division in UC's psychiatry department, studies the long-term effects of abused drugs on the developing central nervous system. He noticed, during previous laboratory studies in rats, that prenatal exposure to MDMA increased growth of dopamine cells in the brain. His team then decided to study exposure to MDMA in cultured embryonic cells--where they confirmed that this drug was in fact increasing dopamine cell survival.
The findings, Lipton says, aren't consistent with what is known about adult brains, where MDMA has been shown to cause depletion of neurotransmitters--like dopamine--and has been linked to decreased brain activity.
MDMA, chemically known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine and sold and used illegally as "ecstasy," is a synthetic stimulant that prompts the secretion of large amounts of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. This secretion can lead to prolonged periods of activity, hallucinations and euphoria. Before the United States banned it in 1985, MDMA was tested as a possible adjunct in psychotherapy. In 2001, the FDA agreed to allow MDMA to be tested as a possible treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dama Kimmon | EurekAlert!
Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus
22.05.2017 | University of Toronto
Insight into enzyme's 3-D structure could cut biofuel costs
19.05.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
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