Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology have identified a drug that could potentially help our brains reverse the damage caused by heavy alcohol consumption.
Their studies in adult mice show that two weeks of daily treatment with the drug tandospirone reversed the effects of 15 weeks of binge-like alcohol consumption on neurogenesis (the ability of the brain to grow and replace brain cells). The study’s findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Tandospirone is a relatively new drug, only currently available in China and Japan, where it is used to treat general anxiety.
It acts selectively on the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A, and has also been shown to stop anxiety-like behaviours associated with alcohol withdrawal in a mouse mofel. This was accompanied by a significant decrease in binge-like alcohol intake.
The study’s leader, neuroscientist Professor Selena Bartlett, said: ‘This is a novel discovery that tandospirone can reverse the deficit in neurogenesis caused by alcohol. We know that with heavy drinking you are inhibiting your ability to grow new neurons, brain cells. Alcohol is specifically very damaging for neurons.’
‘Other studies in mice have shown that tandospirone improves brain neurogenesis, but this is the first time it has been shown that it can totally reverse the neurogenic deficits induced by alcohol.’
‘This opens the way to look at if neurogenesis is associated with other substance-abuse deficits, such as in memory and learning, and whether this compound can reverse these.’
‘This is not just another drug that shows promise in helping to reduce binge drinking. While it could possibly have that effect, it might be able to help reboot the brain and reverse the deficits the alcohol abuse causes – both the inhibition to the brain’s ability to regenerate, and the behavioural consequences that come from what alcohol is doing to the brain, like increases in anxiety and depression.’