Lorenzo Leggio, MD, PhD, MSc
CPN, NIAAA & NIDA, NIH
Bethesda, MD, USA
Ghrelin as a potential new target for alcoholism treatment: recent clinical data.
The rewarding properties of natural and chemical reinforcers are mediated via multiple and complex pathways in the brain. There is an underlying disruption in reward processing in animal models of and individuals with addictions. This raises the possibility that endocrine signals from the gut traditionally known to regulate food intake may play an important role in reward regulation as well as in development of drug dependence. Dr. Leggio will present recent clinical data suggesting that ghrelin is a potential new target for alcoholism treatment. In particular, preliminary clinical studies indicate that there is a relationship between endogenous blood ghrelin levels and drinking status and craving for alcohol. Additionally, a recent human laboratory study demonstrated, for the first time, that intravenous administration of exogenous ghrelin resulted in acute increase of cue-induced alcohol craving. Altogether, these results are consistent with preclinical work on ghrelin signaling in alcohol drinking and reward and suggest that ghrelin may represent a novel potential target for medications development for alcoholism.