Scientists have found differences in protein concentrations in the brain pleasure centers of 10 people who died from cocaine overdose as compared with 10 people who did not abuse the drug. Dr. Scott Hemby and colleagues at Wake Forest University and the University of Miami Schools of Medicine used mass spectrometry to measure more than 1,400 proteins in post-mortem tissue samples from the nucleus accumbens. Levels of roughly 50 proteins were found to be either higher or lower in the cocaine abusers. These proteins participate in basic neurobiological processes such as forming cellular structures, strengthening neuronal connections, sending chemical messages between cells, deriving energy from glucose, and protecting cells from injury. Such information may point scientists toward new insights into the molecular mechanisms and consequences of cocaine addiction.
Tannu, N., Mash, D. & Hemby, S. Cytosolic proteomic alterations in the nucleus accumbens of cocaine overdose victims, Molecular Psychiatry 12(1):55-73, 2007. [Full text]