Given the widespread use and abuse of alcohol for recreation, a drug that could interrupt its effects would have enormous value in treating alcoholism. Since addiction is based on stimulating pleasure centers, scientists have been looking for a way to block that interaction between alcohol and the brain. The challenge has been to find a key protein that carries out this transmission and identify its binding site. Now, biologists in the Harris Lab at the University of Texas Austin have made a major research breakthrough validating the importance of certain ligand-gated ion channels in that process and locating a cavity where the binding takes place. Remarkably, they were able to push their research forward thanks to an obscure alpine cyanobacteria recently sequenced in France.
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Science researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have received a $3.3 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to work on a medication to treat alcoholism and drug addiction, according to a UT Austin news article. The donating institute is a part of the National Institutes of Health.
The NIH has funded a five-year, $21 million Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism grant to support a multi-site consortium led by Oregon Health & Science University researchers Kathleen A. Grant and Betsy Ferguson. The grant represents the second competitive renewal for the INIA consortium (founded in 2001), which is made up of 15 lead investigators from 10 institutions in the United States and Europe. OHSU's share of the current funding is $6.3M. Dr. Grant is the head of neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC), where Dr. Ferguson is an associate scientist. The Division of Neuroscience at the ONPRC conducts research aimed at identifying and defining fundamental aspects of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying nervous system function.
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