A recent MedicalXpress article discussed new research at the University of Illinois Chicago focused on treating depression linked to alcohol use disorder. When someone experiences withdrawal from long-term alcohol use, depression is a common side effect that leads to more drinking to self-medicate. The UIC researchers believe that treating this depression can prevent a relapse.
To test the theory, they examined the brain’s hippocampus, where depression and cognitive function reside. They conducted RNA sequencing of all the RNA transcripts in the hippocampus and identified the ones that changed during withdrawal. They noticed that one of the RNA transcripts that changed makes the STAT3 protein, which may be a “master regulator” of multiple genes in the hippocampus during withdrawal. When the team treated rats experiencing withdrawal with a compound that blocks STAT3 activity, their withdrawal-induced anhedonia was alleviated.