Neuroscientists receive grant to study shuttling proteins

neurons in the brain.

By Cathy Wilde

Release Date: May 2, 2018

Panayotis (Peter) Thanos

Panayotis (Peter) Thanos

Samir Haj-Dahmane

Samir Haj-Dahmane

“We know that dysregulation in endocannabinoid signaling contributes to the development and persistence of addictive behaviors. Therefore, understanding the various mechanisms of this system is required for a better understanding of the neurobiology of addiction-related disorders and the development of effective treatments.”
Panayotis Thanos, RIA senior research scientist
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Two researchers in the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions will expand on their work exploring the brain’s endocannabinoid system as a result of a two-year, $427,000 grant award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Panayotis (Peter) Thanos, PhD, and Samir Haj-Dahmane, PhD, senior research scientists at RIA, seek to identify potential targets for new drug therapies to fight addiction through their research on the role of fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs) in the brain’s endocannabinoid system.

Endocannabinoids are naturally produced lipids in the brain that control numerous physiological and behaviors functions, including stress, addiction, memory, appetite and pain regulation. In a recently published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Haj-Dahmane, Thanos and their co-authors showed that a certain fatty acid binding protein — FABP5 — is key to how endocannabinoids are transported to engage their receptor targets in the brain.

“We know that dysregulation in endocannabinoid signaling contributes to the development and persistence of addictive behaviors,” Thanos says. “Therefore, understanding the various mechanisms of this system is required for a better understanding of the neurobiology of addiction-related disorders and the development of effective treatments.”

The multidisciplinary translational study will focus on the role of FABP5 in endocannabinoid signaling in the effects of cocaine abuse on the brain. Thanos and Haj-Dahmane will collaborate with researchers from Stony Brook University in a continuation of work initially supported by SUNY REACH (Research Excellence in Academic Health), a program to unify and advance the research vision of New York State’s public academic health centers and their integrated medical schools.

RIA is a research center of the University at Buffalo and a national leader in the study of alcohol and substance abuse issues. RIA’s research programs, most of which have multiple-year funding, are supported by federal, state and private foundation grants. Located on UB’s Downtown Campus, RIA is a member of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and a key contributor to UB’s reputation for research excellence. To learn more, visit buffalo.edu/ria.  

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