An intriguing new study has found that a single dose of human mesenchymal stem cells administered to rats bred to be high alcohol drinkers significantly reduced their voluntary alcohol intake. The research bolsters the growing hypothesis that stem cell treatments may be effective therapies to battle a variety of addiction disorders.
Recent research has indicated that chronic use of addictive drugs, including alcohol, cocaine and opiates, is associated with an increase in neuroinflammation. Other studies, in both humans and rats, have also suggested that pro-inflammatory conditions in the brain can increase voluntary alcohol consumption.
A 2017 study by a team of researchers from the University of Chile found that intracerebral injections of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) into high-alcohol intake bred rats resulted in the animals dramatically reducing chronic alcohol consumption. The hurdle researchers faced following that study was the fact the intracerebral administration of any substance is not an ideal way to treat chronic alcoholism in humans. And because MSCs are relatively large molecules they tend not to effectively reach the brain when injected intravenously.
For this new study the team utilized a technique that can aggregate MSCs into smaller spheroid shapes, reducing their overall cell size by up to 75 percent, allowing them to better reach the brain when injected intravenously. To study the efficacy of the MSC-spheroids on the symptoms of alcoholism they were then intravenously administered into rats that had been selectively bred to consume high volumes of alcohol.