Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Alcohol and drugs are just a few of the things that can possibly be found at play in a nightclub. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen (UC) recently studied the effects of a particular drug called Fantasy. With their studies, the UC researchers revealed that they were able to gain a better understanding of the biological makeup of gamma-hydroxbutryic acid (GHB,) a transmitter substance found in the brain.
GHB is related to the illegal drug Fantasy, which is the synthetic form of substance. In the 1960s, GHB was discovered to be a naturally occurring substance found in the brain. The substance was later manufactured as a drug for clinical uses, but its physiological uses are still unknown. Based on recent studies, investigators from the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology at UC discovered where the transmitter substance binds in the brain during certain physiological conditions. The study´s findings were recently published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“We have discovered that GHB binds to a special protein in the brain — more specifically a GABAA-receptor. The binding is strong even at very low dosage. This suggests that we have found the natural receptor, which opens new and exciting research opportunities, in that we have identified an important unknown that can provide the basis for a full explanation of the biological significance of the transmitter,” remarked Laura Friis Eghorn, a doctoral student, in a prepared statement.
Researchers also explained how the drug Fantasy could be abused. There are differences between a small dose and a more moderate dose. In moderate amounts, the drug can influence users with sexually stimulating, sedative effects. When combined with alcohol, Fantasy can be particularly dangerous and lead to unconsciousness or coma.
“GHB is registered for use as a drug to treat alcoholism and certain types of sleep disorders, but the risk of abuse presents difficulties. In the long-term, understanding how GHB works will enable us to develop new and better pharmaceuticals with a targeted effect in the brain, without the dangerous side-effects of fantasy,” noted Friis Eghorn, a member of the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, in the statement.
The study is a joint collaborative effort by the researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia and the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at UC.
“Our chemist colleagues designed and produced special ligands — that are mimics of GHB in several variations. This enabled us to go on a targeted fishing expedition in the brain. We have slowly found our way to the receptor, which we have also been able to test pharmacologically. In itself, it is not unusual to find new receptors in the brain for known compounds. However, when we find a natural match rooted in the brain’s transmitter system, the biological implications are extremely interesting,” commented Petrine Wellendorph, an associate professor and lead of the research group that produced the results, in the statement.
The investigators concluded that further research would allow scientists to understand the biological mechanisms behind GHB-binding in the brain. They also believe that more studies will help in the development of antidotes of the drug fantasy. There is currently no known antidote.