Johns Hopkins study shows cocaine causes brain cells to eat themselves

For story suggestions please contact [email protected]

A study conducted on mice by a team of scientists at John Hopkins University found that high doses of cocaine can cause out-of-control autophagy, a physiological process that causes the destruction of cells and the formation of new ones.

Autophagy removes or recycles debris that accumulates in bags in cells called vacuoles. These bags fuse with enzyme-rich bags called lysosomes, which lyse the waste.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that high doses of cocaine can cause autophagy to go into overdrive and destroy important cell components such as energy-producing mitochondria, causing autophagy-induced cell death.

Prasun Guha, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of the paper, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, likened the process to how waste is removed from the house.

“A cell is like a household that is constantly generating trash,” Guha explained in a press release. “Autophagy is the housekeeper that takes out the trash — it’s usually a good thing. But cocaine makes the housekeeper throw away really important things, like mitochondria, which produce energy for the cell.”

Signs of autophagy-induced cell death were found in the brains of mice given high doses of cocaine, as well as in the brains of mice whose mothers received the drug while pregnant.

The scientists also tested an experimental drug called CGP3466B, which they protected mouse nerve cells from autophagy-induced death caused by cocaine.

The drug has been proven to be safe in humans, but more research is needed to determine whether it can truly protect human nerve cells from the devastating effects of cocaine.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Waste broken down inside cells due to autophagy
2. Cocaine making cells throwing away mitochondria, causing cells death
3. Autophagy-induced cell death in the brains of mice given high doses of cocaine and mice whose mothers received cocaine while pregnant
4. Drug CGP3466B protecting nerve cells from death


VOICEOVER (in English):

“Autophagy removes or recycles debris that accumulates in bags in cells called vacuoles. These bags fuse with enzyme-rich bags called lysosomes, which lyse the waste.”

“Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that high doses of cocaine can cause autophagy to go into overdrive and destroy important cell components such as energy-producing mitochondria, causing autophagy-induced cell death.”

“Signs of autophagy-induced cell death were found in the brains of mice given high doses of cocaine, as well as in the brains of mice whose mothers received the drug while pregnant.”

“The scientists also tested an experimental drug called CGP3466B, which protected mouse nerve cells from autophagy-induced death caused by cocaine.”

SOURCES: Johns Hopkins Medicine, Nature
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/jhm-nei011316.php
http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/the-discovery-of-lysosomes-and-autophagy-14199828