The process called autophagy is undergone throughout our whole body on a regular basis in order to dispose of unwanted cells or simply dispose of those that have died. But a study conducted on mice has shown that cocaine makes brain cells consume themselves at a rapid pace, called overactive autophagy, eventually leading to the subject’s death.
This process is not limited to the cocaine consumer only, with mice offspring showing the same overactive autophagy if their mothers consumed cocaine during gestation. This phenomenon is based on the effect of nitric oxide on brain cells, forcing autophagy to go out of control. This can be easily described as a house cleaner that throws out everything, like your pet or your TV, along with the trash.
The main impact of nitric oxide is on the GAPDH enzyme. By altering this compound, autophagy is set to target mitochondria that are directly responsible for supplying the cell with energy, leading to the cell’s auto-cannibalization. This effect was known since 2013 by the research team from Johns Hopkins University that conducted this study, but the exact way in which nitric oxide affects cells was not entirely known.
By injecting high doses of cocaine into lab mice, followed by the subject’s autopsy, the team was able to clearly see what parts of the brain began to eat themselves and why they did so. Following the study’s result, researchers have found that a chemical compound named CGP3466B can function as an antidote.
When injected into mice, both before and after high doses of cocaine were administered, the mice’s brain cells gained a higher degree of defense towards nitric oxide. In some cases, cells were left completely unaltered if they were treated with the aforementioned chemical compound.
By expanding this study further, even leading to human clinical trials after a certain point is reached, CGP3466B can be used to completely remove the dangers of cocaine use. True, by doing this, people may be more enticed to partake in cocaine consumption, but this study is completely aimed at those who are currently struggling with cocaine addiction.
Besides cocaine, other chemicals that contain nitric oxide can be combated through the use of the so-called “antidote”, but further inquiries have to be made on the subject before that is proven to be the case.
Knowing that cocaine makes brain cells consume themselves and the way to counteract the process, new targeted therapeutics can be created through the use of the CGP3466B compound in order to protect people from the effects of cocaine-induced autophagy. But in order for that to happen, the team needs to see how human patients react to doses of CGP3466B.