Malayali researcher develops treatment for drug de-addiction
Kochi: A research team led by Malayali scientist Dr Thomas Thannickal discovered that drug de-addiction is possible by treating the nerve cells in brain. Dr Thomas is an associate research professor at the University of California. The research study has been published in the journal ‘Science Translational Medicine’.
There are some cells in the human brain which produce the protein molecules named hypocretin. If the amount of hypocretin gets reduced, then the person could suffer from narcolepsy. It is a chronic sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime drowsiness. Another medical condition, cataplexy causes a person to suddenly collapse after strong emotional outburst. At a time when these two diseases are showing a rise, Dr Thomas and his team conducted a study.
Studying the brain activities of a person addicted with drugs became a turning point in the research. The nerve cells which produced hypocretin was largely found in the affected brain. Later a detailed research was conducted over the brain activities of more people who are addicted to heroin.
Experiments were conducted on rats to collect scientific evidences. The morphin extracted from opium was injected in rats. This in turn increased the amount of hypocretin produced in the body. This remained even after the experimental phase got over. This led to the discovery that medicine produced out of opium and other similar drugs could be used to treat narcolepsy and cataplexy. The possibility to reduce the amount of hypocretin in drug addicts has also been developed.
Dr Thomas Thannickal
Dr Thomas is a native of Chembanthotti in Kannur. He secured PhD from MG Univerity and post-doctoral research from the University of California. Presently, he works as an associate research professor at School of Medicine at the University of California.
His studies were earlier published by journals like Neuron and Science. He has won Chancellors award given by the University of California for excellence in research, Young Investigator award for American Sleep Research Society and Sleep Science award for American Academy of Neuorology.