African Shrub a New Addiction Remedy?
Scientists used a compound found in a shrub native to Africa to reveal the three major shapes of the serotonin transporter, a protein in the brain linked to anxiety and depression, thereby opening new avenues for developing medications to treat addiction.
Using cryo-electron microscopy, the scientists examined the protein binding to ibogaine, an alkaloid that alters brain function and occurs naturally in the shrub iboga.
Using ibogaine, researchers reveal the structure of the serotonin transporter in its outward-open, closed and inward-open shapes.
The discovery has been published in the journal Nature.
Author of the study Eric Gouaux, Ph.D, said: “It means we can target different states of the transporter to modulate its activity.
“It opens up new thinking of how you might come up with novel molecules to bind to the transporter.”
In describing the mechanism of how the protein works with ibogaine, co-authors said they expect the finding may open the door to developing medications that stop addiction without the hallucinogenic and other dangerous properties of ibogaine.
“There’s a real need to develop molecules that have these anti-addictive properties,” said co-lead author Jonathan Coleman, Ph.D., a researcher in the OHSU Vollum Institute.