Heroin May Protect the Brain from HIV

By chillinwill · Apr 20, 2010 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    To their surprise, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) have discovered that morphine (a derivate of the opium poppy that is similar to heroin) protects rat neurons against HIV toxicity - a finding they say might help in the design of new neuroprotective therapies for patients with the infection.

    The discovery, being presented at the annual meeting of the Society of NeuroImmune Pharmacology, also helps explain why a subset of people who are heroin abusers and become infected with HIV through needle sharing don't develop HIV brain dementia. This brain disorder includes cognitive and motor abnormalities, anxiety and depression.

    "We believe that morphine may be neuroprotective in a subset of people infected with HIV," says the study's lead investigator, Italo Mocchetti, PhD, Professor of neuroscience at GUMC. "That is not to say that people should use heroin to protect themselves – that makes no medical sense at all – but our findings gives us ideas about designing drugs that could be of benefit.

    "Needless to say we were very surprised at the findings," he added. "We started with the opposite hypothesis – that heroin was going to destroy neurons in the brain and lead to HIV dementia."

    The researchers conducted the study because they knew that a number of HIV-positive people are also heroin abusers, and because of that, some are at high risk of developing neurological complications from the infection. Others, however, never develop these cognitive problems, Mocchetti says.

    Because little is known about the molecular mechanisms linking opiates and HIV neurotoxicity, Mocchetti and his team conducted experiments in rats. They found that in the brain, morphine inhibited the toxic property of the HIV protein gp120 that mediates the infection of immune cells. With further investigation, they concluded that morphine induces production of the protein CCL5, which they discovered is released by astrocytes, a type of brain cell. CCL5 is known to activate factors that suppress HIV infection of human immune cells. "It is known to be important in blood, but we didn't know it is secreted in the brain," says Mocchetti. "Our hypothesis is that it is in the brain to prevent neurons from dying."

    They say morphine blocked HIV from binding to CCR5 receptors it typically uses to enter and infect cells. The researchers believe CCL5 itself attached to those receptors, preventing the virus from using it. In this way, it prevented HIV-associated dementia. This effect, however, only worked in the M-trophic strain of HIV, the strain that most people are first infected with. It did not work with the second T-trophic strain that often infects patients later.

    "Ideally we can use this information to develop a morphine-like compound that does not have the typical dependency and tolerance issues that morphine has," says Mocchetti.

    April 17, 2010
    Red Orbit

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  1. h2uk
    They been searching for that substance for quite a while now :)

    Heroin was touted as a non addictive cure for mophinism in its day

    though maybe with the new genetic manipulation technology they may discover this miracle drug.

    It's often said H users dont get colds and now they also get HIV dementia immunity if they're lucky too, interesting article about one potential benefits of being on heroin.
  2. blink1989
    Yepp.. ever since the discovery of the opium poppy..

    Thing is, I think they already have.. not just that but anyone addicted could instantly and painlessly be detoxified.

    Check out the Nociceptin receptor antagonists. Nociceptin receptors are thought to be vital to opiate tolerance, dependence and directly cause wthdrawals.
  3. Spucky
    AW: Heroin May Protect the Brain from HIV

    It remind me of a Topic a few years ago!
    (please inform me because of the Hard-links,
    but as long they are not Wiki-links it must be okay, or?)

    Heroin users show Alzheimer’s-like brain changes

    Young people who abuse heroin may suffer brain damage similar to what’s seen in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,
    according to UK researchers.

    Comparing autopsied brain tissue from young heroin abusers and non-drug users, UK researchers found that before they died, the drug users had begun to develop damage in brain areas involved in learning, memory and emotion.

    Specifically, they had heightened levels of two proteins that contribute to the “plaques” and “tangles” that build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

    One of these proteins is called tau, and drug users in this study showed higher levels of an abnormal, insoluble form of tau that is seen the tangles that mark Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

    “Since abnormal tau is clearly linked to dementia in a number of other conditions,” said senior study author Dr. Jeanne E. Bell, “there is cause for worry about accelerated aging of the brain in people who start to abuse opiates at a young age.”

    It’s unlikely that the protein levels seen in drug abusers’ brains had already caused problems with thinking, memory or behavior, according to Bell, a professor of neuropathology at the University of Edinburgh.

    “However,” she added, “our findings do relate to areas of the brain involved in memory and emotional control, and if the process were to continue at an accelerated pace in opiate abusers compared with non-abusers, it seems likely that symptoms would follow.”
    The findings were published online this week by the journal Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology.

    For their study, Bell and her colleagues examined brain tissue from 34 intravenous drug users younger than 40 who had abused heroin or methadone. Most had died of a drug overdose; one committed suicide.

    For comparison, the researchers also looked at tissue from 16 people in the same age range who had died suddenly and had no known history of drug abuse.

    While none of the brain tissue contained Alzheimer’s-like “plaques” - deposits composed of a protein called beta-amyloid - drug abusers were much more likely to show evidence of beta-amyloid precursor protein in two brain areas. This protein, when broken up by specific enzymes, forms the beta-amyloids that mark Alzheimer’s plaques.

    Drug abusers were also far more likely than the comparison group to have brain tangles composed of abnormal tau.
    More than twice as many opiate users - 44 percent versus 19 percent - showed such protein deposits. And while the tangles were limited to one brain area in non-drug users, they were more widespread in drug abusers’ brains.

    The findings, Bell said, show only an association between drug abuse and abnormal protein deposits in the brain, and so cannot establish heroin or other opiates as the cause.

    That means it’s also impossible to say whether the brain damage could be reversed if the drug abuse were to stop,
    according to the researcher.

    It will be important, Bell noted, to find out whether opiates in fact cause the abnormal protein deposits, and if they do, the mechanisms at work. Doing so, she said, could also yield clues to the early development of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

    SOURCE: Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology, online June 21, 2005.


    It's soooooo strange, the People really did not know anything.
    It's very smart to avoid Opiates and Opioide because no one knows
    what will happen in the future :)
  4. h2uk
    Tolerance reduction and build up does appear to be somehow adjustable using some drugs. Antagonists naltraxone etc.

    They are always discovering new medical information, it used to be said that heroin as it is not directly damaging to organs is harmless and goes through the body like sugar, however its nurotoxic properties may not yet be fully understood.

    This is an interesting bit off research about how hiv dementia occurs less in heroin users.

    Wonder if the smoking off aluminium foil has any connection to alzheimers?
  5. dyingtomorrow
    Re: AW: Heroin May Protect the Brain from HIV

    This is just a personal opinion, but SWIM believes heroin is a generally healthy substance for the body to consume. Leaving out the issue of heroin cuts and unsafe lifestyle practices, SWIM does not see how having a massive surplus of endorphins can be anything but healthy. Endorphins are linked to psychological happiness, lack of age-inducing stress, general well being, immune system health, and a number of other important bodily functions. Provided you take care of the constipation issues by drinking enough water, in SWIM's experience from 4 years of IV heroin use he would say he was much healthier when he could afford a steady dose of heroin and before financial issues changed his lifestyle. Physically he never got sick, he didn't show any signs of aging for the 4 years, he was never stressed. He was able to work out as normal, and maintain an extremely healthy muscular physic in spite of what one would assume comes with intravenous use. The mental improvement was the most dramatic, SWIM was able to consistently work harder and with more focus than 3 non-heroin-using SWIMs. He was a million times more creative, able to absorb information incredibly fast, and able to communicate with an eloquence that he can't come close to in his natural state.

    Personally SWIM has not seen or experienced any negative health effects linked solely to the chemical effects of diacetylmorphine. Again, this is not taking into account health issues resulting from poor lifestyle (resulting from legal or financial issues) or adulterants in street heroin.

    I'm not very impressed with this article as a scientific source. One would think that a bunch of scientists, people who are trained to search for variables, would seriously emphasize that they have no clue whether diacetylmorphine is actually doing this, or whether it has to do with the fact that a sample of street heroin users are injecting all kinds of adulterants on a daily basis (and citric acid in the UK) in addition to actual heroin. Not to mention have an extremely high probability of abusing a wide range or drugs, crack being among the most common DOC in addition to heroin. I see a barely significant mention of that gaping hole in their study, making it sound like just the kind of gray area of science and politics that the media eats up. It is very poorly worded if it is infact supposed to be science.
  6. blink1989
    What makes you think heroin is neurotoxic?

    Not including addiction and constipation, Heroin is only dangerous if taken in ammounts large enough to supress respiration to the point where the brain suffers from severe hypoxia.

    As far as I know Diacetylmorphine is not a nerotoxin.
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