A new study published in the journal the Nature Chemical Biology finds that the endogenous compound anandamide performs a role in erasing reminiscences of the traumatic event and it naturally modulates the emotional pain. This study is done by an international team led by Leiden chemist Mario van der Stelt, might be a starting point for the treatment of anxiety disorders like PTSD.
The research started five years before when the first author of the study, Elliot Mock and Anouk van der Gracht figured out how to isolate the protein NAPE-PLD that is responsible for the production of anandamide in the brain. The subsequent step was to locate a compound that prevents this protein from working, the thought was that repressing the production of anandamide would permit them to study the biological role of anandamide.
Seeing such a substance turned out as no mean accomplishment. Van der Stelt went to the European Lead Factory in Oss, the Netherlands, which was co-founded by his examination group seven years before and had practical experience in the quick screening of a huge number of substances. He originally needed to make sure about EU approval before a completely automated system could begin scanning for the compound that represses the protein.
When individuals feel emotional pain, the similar areas of the brain get activated as the anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula gets activated when individuals feel physical pain. A study shows that these regions were activated when individuals encountered social rejection from peers. While in 2011 study the same regions were activated when individuals’ relationship with their romantic partners was broken.
Van der Stelt said that this included more than 0.3 million mini reactions each with an alternate substance. It took only three days to screen these substances that seem very impressive.
At the end of the screening, the researchers developed a promising molecule that blocks the anandamide’s production but Van der Stelt tells that this molecule wasn’t ready at that point. So Elliot started working on it. Mock optimized it, and along with various students, went through two years synthesizing more than a hundred analogs, molecules that vary slightly from one another. One of these, in the end, revealed the role of anandamide in the body.
All feelings have a motor component. Regardless of whether a person attempts to hide emotions, there will be muscular activation. The foremost cingulate is located right next to the premotor area, which starts the process of emotional expression formation in the body. The premotor area associates with the motor cortex above it, and afterward back to the particular muscles of expression.
Van der Stelt tells that they began working with Roche Pharmaceuticals to analyze whether the brain received this optimized molecule, an essential condition. Roche confirmed that it reached the brain, the researchers named it LEI-401. Next, they started working with the researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States to investigate whether this substance truly works in the brain. “That also turned out to be the case.”
Following three years, the way was at last open to answer the burning question about the physiological role of anandamide. This time, Van der Stelt approach partners in the United States and Canada to research the physiological impacts of reduced anandamide levels in the cerebrum. The researchers found that anandamide is involved in healing emotional pain; anxiety and stress.
Van der Stelt’s exploration opens the route for new strategies to treat anxiety disorders like PTSD. It is the beginning stage for the advancement of new drugs. As they have now indicated that anandamide is responsible for relieving emotional pain, pharmaceutical organizations can concentrate on a new target.