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Anandamide Compound Targets Brain's 'Bliss' System

May Lead to New Addiction Treatment

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Updated January 19, 2005

In the not-too-distant future, people struggling with drug addiction may benefit from new drugs based on a synthetic chemical that targets the brain's "bliss" system.

Dr. Daniele Piomelli and his colleagues at the University of California at Irvine College of Medicine, in collaboration with Dr. Alex Makriyannis at the University of Connecticut, have created a molecule, AM1172, that regulates the way the brain chemical anandamide is processed.

Derived from an ancient Indian-language word meaning "bliss," anandamide is a natural cannabinoid, or marijuana-like compound, that acts on certain brain receptors involved in pain, mood, and appetite.

For example, when the body senses pain, anandamide binds to CB-1 cannabinoid receptors and nullifies the sensation by blocking the ability of the nerves to transmit the signal. However, this effect is short-lived because anandamide is quickly broken down.

Anandamine Breaks Down Quickly

In the current study, tests on mice showed that AM1172 keeps anandamide from degrading and prevents its transport from the intercellular spaces between neurons into the cells.

By blocking anandamide degradation, and boosting its actions without activating the brain's cannabinoid receptors, AM1172 can selectively target specific receptors involved with specific behaviors.

This NIDA-funded study was published in the June 8, 2004 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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