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Tandospirone could reverse brain deficits from chronic alcoholism

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Excessive alcohol use can cause severe effects on the brain, leading to impaired cognition and thiamine deficiency. But in a study of five-week-old mice, researchers have uncovered a new drug that could treat the damaging effects of heavy alcohol consumption.

Tandospirone, a drug with anxiolytic and antidepressant properties, may help reverse neurogenic deficits caused by chronic alcohol consumption, according to a study in Scientific Reports.

In the study, conducted by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology, male mice were administered tandospirone, dissolved in 2 percent of dimethyl sulfoxide and saline, at a dose of 3 mg a day for a two week period.

“Mice were given access to one bottle of 20% (v/v) alcohol for a 2 h period (12 pm to 2 pm), 3 h into the dark cycle, Monday to Friday. The alcohol solution was presented in 50 ml plastic falcon tubes fitted with rubber stoppers and a 6.35 cm stainless-steel sipper tube with double ball bearings,” the study reads.

Based on the findings, only a two-week treatment of tandospirone significantly reversed brain deficits for up to five weeks. The beneficiary effects of the drug were the result of activating serotonin 5-HT1A receptors.

“Other studies in mice have shown that tandospirone improves brain neurogenesis, but this is the first time it has been shown that it can totally reverse the neurogenic deficits induced by alcohol,” said Selena Bartlett, the lead researcher of the study.

Additionally, the drug, which is closely related to the nonbenzodiazepine buspirone, was shown to be effective in reducing anxiety caused by alcohol withdrawal.

“It is commonly used there and shown to be highly effective in treating general anxiety and well tolerated with limited adverse effects,” Bartlett says.

“This is not just another drug that shows promise in helping to reduce binge drinking. It might be able to help reboot the brain and reverse the deficits the alcohol abuse causes — both the inhibition to the brain’s ability to regenerate, and the behavioural consequences that come from what alcohol is doing to the brain, like increases in anxiety and depression.”

Tandospirone was approved in the late 1990s for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder and is only available in China and Japan.

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