Discovering drug treatments for alcohol dependence – News @ Northeastern

Pharmacy students led by Angela Sung, BHS’18, PharmD’19, develop new drugs without side effects to help people addicted to alcohol. Photo by Adam Glanzman / Northeastern University

Common treatments for alcohol dependence range from 12-step abstinence programs to the use of medications, including disulfiram, sold as Antabuse, which produces acute sensitivity to alcohol use. but is associated with painful side effects.

Northeastern pharmacy students led by Angela Sung develop new drugs without these side effects to help people addicted to alcohol, including the 15.1 million adults in the United States alone, according to the survey national report on drug use and health. Their most promising drug candidate, named GAT358, has been shown to reduce craving for alcohol by 25% when tested on rats.

“Alcohol addiction can cause depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and an increased risk of cancer,” says Sung, BHS’18, PharmD’19. “The fallout is difficult not only for the drinker, but also for family and friends. “

Sung and his colleagues modified existing compounds to dampen the sense of pleasure in the brain’s reward system that boosts alcohol consumption. They focused on a protein found in many cells in the brain and body called the cannibinoid receptor CB1. The chemicals in alcohol and drugs such as marijuana bind to and activate CB1, producing the high. Drugs that block the receptor have been shown to curb the urge to euphoria, but, as with disulfiram, the blockage is too often imprecise and results in negative side effects.

GAT358 prevents many of these side effects. “Think of the receiver as a button,” Sung explains. “GAT358 does not disable the button but rather modifies it. “
The discovery of GAT358 opened doors for Sung. She became fascinated with research while working in cooperation with Ganeshsingh Thakur, associate professor at the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, who is also the project’s educational advisor.

“Initially, I thought I would like to work in a hospital after graduation,” says Sung. “I did not know this area. Now, I look forward to continuing the exciting field of drug discovery and development. “


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