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UTHSC researchersí findings featured in international journal (6-22-00)

A research team from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) has uncovered the link between amphetamines and release of the brain chemical dopamineóa finding that may shed light on how addictions originate and that could result in new treatments for substance abuse.

The findings were published in the June 6 edition of the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Aurelio Galli, Ph.D., assistant professor in UTHSCís Department of Pharmacology; Christine Saunders, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry; and

L.M. Fredrik Leeb-Lundberg, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biochemistry, published research outlining the mechanism by which amphetamines interact with human dopamine transporteróan action previously unknown.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that determines a variety of critical brain functions. An imbalance of the dopaminergic system may result in disease and brain dysfunction, such as Parkinsonís disease and schizophrenia.

Investigators have been looking at the role that dopaminergic transmission plays in drug abuse to develop a better understanding of how addictions originate. Drugs such as amphetamines are known to promote the release of dopamine, but until now the mechanisms behind this action were a mystery.

Drs. Galli, Saunders and Leeb-Lundberg, working in collaboration with researchers from Columbia University, have unlocked part of the mystery. Their research indicates that amphetamine response reduces the number of dopamine transporters on the cell surface, thereby elevating dopamine release.

"It opens a door that was completely shut before," said Dr. Saunders. "We now have a mechanism that provides us with a world of possibilities."

Contact: Will Sansom or Heather Feldman