Gene therapy reduces cocaine use in rats

Self-stimulating rat Colombian marching powder

Narcotic abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the US, and even humble rodents have taken to imbibing the notorious Colombian marching powder. Or so say scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.

Actually, what the researchers have shown is that rats induced to become cocaine addicts lessen their use of the drug in response to increased levels of the neurotransmitter chemical dopamine, which produces feelings of pleasure. The way the scientists do this is to inject rats with a virus rendered harmless and altered to carry the dopamine receptor gene directly into the brains of the animals trained to self-administer cocaine.

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist exploiting this gem of a press release headline!