College of Pharmacy professor Joydip Das is working on a new research study to determine the root of alcohol addiction in the brain.
Das, with his team of post-doctoral fellows, are exploring the mechanisms in hopes to one day develop a drug to treat alcoholism.
The National Institutes of Health is funding their research with a three-year, $450,000 grant.
The efforts of the research have led Das and his team to discover precisely where the alcohol binds in the brain.
“We think we have found the target, and the name of the target is Protein Kinase C,” Das said. “We found that alcohol binds to that protein and inhibits its action. We think that based on this binding site in this protein, we will be able to develop some drugs.”
The development of a drug may take years.
Das said the research is in its pre-clinical phase. After a drug is developed, the team has to complete animal lab testing. Once sufficient data is collected, it will be sent to the Food and Drug Administration to be approved for human testing, also known as the clinical phase. Das said it may take a while before the teams gets to this point.
According to the NIH, Alcoholism is defined by four main characteristics – craving, loss of control, physical dependence, and tolerance.
The NIH also states that there are roughly 17.6 million people in the U.S. with alcohol addiction.
Das said that the government spends $184 billion a year on alcohol abuse and alcoholism — of which $1 billion is spent on alcoholism prevention.
“It (alcohol addiction) has a lot of social impact,” Das said. “It’s a big problem.”