Gene’s transcript analysis in the addictive brains has identified both agent-specific and universal drug-induced neuronal changes, giving important information into the biochemical and cellular processes involved. The advancement of transcriptome-based sequence research has provided us with powerful techniques that could be used in conjunction with neurological methods and methodologies, such as the separation of specific areas, circuits, even cells implicated in addictions.
“These changes may explain not only the addictive properties of opioids but what ultimately causes harm to the brain and the person suffering from opioid use disorder,” said Ryan Logan, Ph.D., an Associate Professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine, Boston, MA, U.S. and senior author of the study.
Chronic Opioid Use Alters Brain Gene Expression
Thousands of individuals globally are affected by the opiate pandemic, yet scientists understand shockingly less regarding the molecular alterations that opioids generate in the neural network. Recent research published in the journal Biological Psychiatry tries to further comprehend those molecular mechanisms by demonstrating that proteins were produced differentially in the brains of individuals having opioid addiction VS those who do not use opiates.
However, the experts recommend the use of opioids must be restricted and a thorough profile check must be done by an expert. Overdose of the same can be troublesome to the patient and damage his neurons to a large extent which may not be reversed under any situation.
“These gaps in our understanding of opioids’ actions in the brain limits our ability to develop more effective therapies,” Dr. Logan explained. “To address this, we employed new methods to identify novel molecular players directly in the brains of people who struggled with opioid use disorder.”
Dr. Logan and his colleagues received autopsy brains material from 20 people with OUD and heavy drug usage, as well as 20 people who had never used opioids. They employed RNA scanning (RNAseq), a technology that measures how intensely genomes were produced in a specific region, to find different variations of transcript activity.
Some proteins are produced differentially in patients with OUD relative to control in the dorsal frontal brain and the nuclei accumbens, two brain areas highly implicated with addictive pathogenesis.
“We discovered several important molecular pathways that are integral in mediating the consequences of chronic opioid use on the brain. These molecules are responsible for shaping and maintaining the local environment required for neurons to function properly, as well as molecules critical for local inflammation that may impact the brain’s response to opioids.
Together, these players represent new targets in both the pathology and treatment of opioid use disorder,” said Dr. Logan.
Gene-producing pro-inflammatory immunological proteins and those implicated in endothelial cells remodeling were both impacted, suggesting that opioid usage may have changed neuronal interconnections. Microglia, the mind’s native immune system is found in larger numbers in the minds of persons with OUD, according to the findings.
John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, said of the study: “The deeper we understand opioid use disorders, the more complex is the biology that emerges. This study highlights that opioid dependency is associated with expected changes in markers of neural response and plasticity, but also with neuroinflammatory changes associated with microglia.
These findings suggest important new directions that can be followed in larger studies and that broaden our view of the neurobiology, and potentially treatment, of opioid use disorder.”
Interventions approaches include pharmacological trials and gene-based modifications of system functioning and responsiveness, as well as genetic models such as deliberately chosen strain and individuals ranging in susceptibility and reaction. We will be able to dismantle the transcriptional apparatus and gene expression in the addictive brain using such methods.