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Brain protein central to both Parkinson’s, drug addiction identified

Brain x-rayScientists have identified a protein that appears not only to be central to the process that causes Parkinson’s disease but could also play a role in muting the high from methamphetamine and other addictive drugs.

The action of the protein, known as organic cation transporter 3 or oct3, fills a longstanding gap in scientists’ understanding of the brain damage that causes symptoms like tremor, stiffness, slowness of movement and postural instability. While these are found mainly in patients with Parkinson’s disease, there are more than three dozen other known causes of this array of symptoms, known as "parkinsonism."

In a paper published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Columbia University have shown that oct3, a protein that shepherds molecules into and out of cells, plays a critical role, bringing toxic chemicals to the doorstep of the brain cells that die in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The team found that oct3 is involved in the brain’s response to addictive drugs like methamphetamine as well.

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