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 Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells
22.02.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht New insights into the information processing of motor neurons
22.02.2017 | Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>