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Researchers examine single gene's role in regulating addiction

November 11, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A new study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City has found that induced changes in the action of one gene in the nucleus accumbens region of the brain made laboratory animals more resilient to stress and to cocaine addiction. The findings offer hope for development of therapeutic agents to combat a number of neuropsychiatric disorders and other medical illnesses.

This latest epigenetics study, involving changes in the action of human genes from molecules that regulate how genetic material is activated, focused on a single gene known as FosB. This gene has been linked to addiction and depression in previous research.

Published online on Oct. 27 in Nature Neuroscience, the study found that introducing synthetic transcription factors, targeting only one of thousands of genes, into the nucleus accumbens at FosB made laboratory mice more resilient to stress and less likely to become addicted to cocaine.

Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, who chairs the Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School, said in a Nov. 10 news release that “until now it had been impossible to determine the difference between the mere presence of an epigenetic modification and its functional relevance to neuropsychiatric disease.”