Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How ecstasy can kill brain neurons by cutting their power supply

19.09.2007
Research by Portuguese scientists reveals how ecstasy can compromise the neurons in the brain by damaging their mitochondria – the structures responsible for energy production in the cell - causing the equivalent to a “power-cut” on the affected neurons.

The work to be published in the Journal of Neuroscience[1] also reveals that a drug used in Parkinson’s disease is capable of prevent this damage. By showing how ecstasy can directly compromise such a crucial cellular process the research might help an eventual resolution of the two decade-long debate over whether or not ecstasy use is dangerous.

MDMA (the main component of ecstasy) leads to the production and accumulation of serotonin, a feel-good chemical, which is behind the pleasant effects of the drug. But scientists also know that ecstasy leads to excessive, and most probably toxic quantities of serotonin accumulating in the nerve endings. How this affected ecstasy users, however, was until now not known..

But the Portuguese researchers Ema Alves, Teresa Summavielle, Félix Carvalho and colleagues from the University of Porto and the Porto Polytechnic Institute.

It was known that neurons that produce serotonin eliminate its excess by using monoamine oxidase (MAO), a type of enzyme (enzymes are proteins that mediate chemical reactions) that as it destroys serotonin produces hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). And H2O2 can lead to the formation of free radicals – toxic molecules that when in high quantities can damage the cell components, including DNA, by oxidising them in the same reaction that leads iron to rust. What Alves, Summavielle, Carvalho and colleagues also realised is that in serotonin-producing neurons the existing MAO – which is called MAO-B - is found on the membrane of mitochondria, the structures where nutrients are converted into the energy used by the cell.

Alves and colleagues’ hypothesis was that in these neurons MAO-B, while eliminating the excessive serotonin released in response to ecstasy consume, would produced toxic quantities of free radicals on the mitochondrial membrane. This toxic accumulation could, by affecting the cell energy-producing machine, result in neural death as affected neurons would be incapable of performing basic cellular reactions..

In order to test this hypothesis the team of researchers used four groups of adolescent rats: a group was treated with MDMA, another with MDMA and selegiline – a drug known to block MAO-B activity – and the remaining two served as control. The control groups included one set treated with selegiline alone in order to assure that selegiline had no effect beside MAO-B blocking, and another with an innocuous substance. After some time the animals’ brains were removed and the mitochondria of serotonin-producing neurons analysed. Adolescent rats were used since teenager abusers – ecstasy main users –have particularly vulnerable cerebral and hormonal systems in result of not being yet fully mature.

As hypothesised MDMA-treated rats showed serious damage in their mitochondria including the loss of entire pieces of DNA – mitocondrial DNA codes for proteins involved in the energy-producing process –compromising the whole energetic machine.

On the other hand, animals treated with MDMA and selegiline did not have any signs of mitochondrial problems confirming the importance of MAO-B in MDMA-induced damage. Interestingly, it was seen that MDMA also increase the rats’ body temperature– a hallmark effect of ecstasy – but this was not associated with the mitochondrial damage suggesting that ecstasy was toxic at other levels too.

Ecstasy, or 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine appeared in the raves of the 1980s and although much studied in the last two decades its dangerousness continues to be debated due to the lack of conclusive results. The drug seems to be toxic for neurons (at least in non-humans laboratory models) and has been shown to kill animals but then, relatively few people have died from taking it and those that did it was mostly due to the heatstroke induced by the drug causing respiratory failure. Nevertheless, several studies have suggested that long-term ecstasy users seem to present serious memory loss.

Alves, Summavielle, Carvalho and colleagues’ results reveals a mechanism by which ecstasy leads to “power-cuts” in the brain neurons, compromising their activity and survival. Not only that but this effect was seen in the serotonin-produced neurons and serotonin is known to be involved in memory, which is believed can be compromised by the drug. As consequence the researchers are now investigating if those long-time users of the drug with signs of memory loss show alterations in their mitochondria/serotonin-producing neurons.

Teresa Summavielle, one of the researchers says "We hope that this findings can help convince ecstasy' users, mainly adolescents, that ecstasy really affects the way our brain functions.”

Catarina Amorim | alfa
Further information:
http://www.jneurosci.org/

Further reports about: Ecstasy MAO-B MDMA Serotonin Summavielle mitochondria neurons reaction selegiline toxic

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>