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Nicotinic and Schizophrenia

Institution: University of California, Irvine
Investigator(s): Ricardo Miledi, M.D.
Award Cycle: 2000 (Cycle 9) Grant #: 9RT-0173 Award: $87,719
Subject Area: Nicotine Dependence
Award Type: Research Project Awards

Initial Award Abstract
Schizophrenia is a very serious, and unfortunately rather common mental illness for which there is no definite cure. On top of their illness, schizophrenics are chronic smokers: between five to nine out of ten schizophrenics are addicted to tobacco. Based on this evidence, and other scientific discoveries, it appears that schizophrenia, as well as tobacco addiction, is somehow related to the nicotinic receptor, a protein involved in the communication between brain cells. Interestingly, new drugs designed to fight schizophrenia, called "atypical neuroleptics", reduce nicotine addiction among schizophrenics. This observation is significant because finding medications to treat tobacco addiction has been very difficult. Moreover it is still not known how atypical neuroleptics really work. Understanding how these drugs act will be important not only to unravel the mechanisms of tobacco addiction, but may also lead eventually to new treatments to combat nicotine addiction in schizophrenics and in the normal population.

Preliminary results in our laboratory have shown that atypical neuroleptics act on some types of nicotinic receptors. Our research will focus on characterizing these effects on nicotinic receptors "transplanted" to frog eggs (Xenopus oocytes) with the hope to find an explanation for the beneficial effects of atypical antipsychotics on nicotine addiction.