June 23, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 25

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UTHSC researchers' findings featured in international journal 

A research team from the Health Science Center has uncovered the link between  amphetamines and dopamine release—a finding that may shed light on how addictions  originate and that could result in new treatments for substance abuse. 


UTHSC co-authors (from left) Maria Lamb, graduate student; Dr. Lucia Carvelli, postdoctoral fellow; Dr. Aurelio Galli (seated); Dr. L.M. Frederik Leeb-Lundberg; and Dr. Christine Saunders.

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

Dr. Aurelio Galli, pharmacology, and Drs. Christine Saunders and L. M. Fredrik  Leeb-Lundberg, biochemistry, published research outlining the mechanism by which  amphetamines interact with human dopamine transporters—an 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 Parkinson's 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 begin. Drugs  such as amphetamines are known to promote the release of dopamine, but until now  that process was 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 up a door that was completely shut before," said Dr. Saunders. "We now  have a mechanism that provides us with a world of possibilities."