The cocaine effect in the brain it was still unknown just a few years ago.
However, we have been advancing, and we know that there is a substance called dopamine with multiple functions at the brain level; said substance increases significantly with the consumption cocaine giving pleasure to our brain (and that’s why we end up hooked). On the other hand, it is evident that a powerful drug like this can seriously alter our brain.
In fact, there is a brain cell that it could reduce the effect of cocaine on the brain, a type of immune cell that we already knew previously for its collaboration in the progression of Alzheimer’s. But now, thanks to a study published in Neuron by the team of researchers from the McGill University Medical Center, it is possible that we can use this cell in our favor.
The cell capable of reducing the effect of cocaine on the brain
That famous cell, which is not a neuron as such but belongs to the brain immune system, is the microgla. And, according to this recent study, said immune cell could help reduce the effect of cocaine in the brain, reducing the adverse changes that occur in brain circuits as a result of chronic consumption of the drug and collaborating in the future development of treatments. effective against addiction.
As the researchers comment, cocaine will activate the immune cells of the microgla, causing them to activate an inflammatory signal that would try to stop the effects of the drug on neurons.
To demonstrate this, Dr. Stellwagen, his colleague Sarah Konefal, and the other researchers used a mouse model. They studied a set of brain connections in particular related to behavior, and altered after chronic drug use, where the microgla secretes a substance called TNF (tumor necrosis factor). This substance, TNF, prevents changes in brain connections caused by cocaine and that, when they occur, they are the basis that ends up giving rise to addiction. Unfortunately, this method of avoiding the effect of cocaine on the brain does not last too long.
The microgla in the brain and its future use against addictions
Now, can we lengthen this defense effect against cocaine in the brain? The researchers believe so, since they gave the mice a drug that stimulates TNF production, causing cocaine to have less effect on the mice’s brain. The results are promising.
Dr. Stellwagen believes that It will be possible to develop a treatment with the aim of suppressing the desire of cocaine addicts in stressful situations, or in situations where they would normally take the drug (dependency); in those cases the medicine could be a good substitute and avoid the relapse. In fact, in future studies they hope to find similar results on addictions to alcohol and other drugs.
Curiously, the microgla is not a well-known brain cell, but in recent years, studies have been giving it functions that are important enough to be overlooked. On the one hand, a 2015 Nature Neuroscience study links microgla to Alzheimer’s progression in the brain. But if this were not enough, it seems that the microgla also has some kind of role in the development of schizophrenia, according to another study ofAmerican Journal of Psychiatryfrom last year 2015.
We will see that new findings hold forth for future studies.