TL neuro

July 19, 2019

Cannabidiol by vapor inhalation in rats

Filed under: Cannabidiol, Cannabis, E-cigarettes, Tobacco/Nicotine, Vapor Inhalation — mtaffe @ 2:37 pm

Cannabidiol is increasingly popular, occurring in a dizzying array of products in a highly unregulated retail market. This includes creams, oils, lotions, capsules and e-cigarette liquids, among many other items. A simple search for CBD on google will give you a taste of what I mean, if this is new to you. Just about every single senior person I talk to, it seems, is using CBD or knows another person who is using CBD  for various ailments.

The following has just been accepted for publication:

Javadi-Paydar, M.,  Creehan, K.M., Kerr, T.M.  and Taffe, M.A. Vapor inhalation of cannabidiol (CBD) in rats.  Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 2019 Jul 20:172741. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2019.172741. [ Publisher Site ][ PubMed ]

Figure 1: This figure has been adapted from Taffe et al. 2015. Click to enlarge.

We have been interested in studying the effects of CBD ever since reading a paper [Morgan et al., 2010] that appeared to show that the presence of CBD in cannabis protected users against the memory impairing effects of acute THC intoxication, subsequent to smoking their preferred cannabis. This led to our interest in the potentially interactive effects of CBD and THC and, in particular, tests of the hypothesis that CBD would reduce the effects of THC. Our initial papers on this were Wright et al 2013 and Taffe et al 2015. Of primary relevance for the discussion of our new work, the latter paper showed that CBD did not alter the body temperature (see Figure 1 C, D; blue bars) or activity of rats when injected at doses of 30 or 60 mg/kg, i.p.. Our new work confirms our prior finding that this may be due to the route of administration since, when male or female Wistar rats experience CBD by vapor inhalation, their body temperature does go down, albeit not as severely as when exposed to THC [Javadi-Paydar et al, 2018].

This finding required some follow-up, extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence and all that. Although in the Taffe et al 2015 paper, CBD did appear to increase the magnitude of the hypothermia associated with THC when each were injected, i.p., (red trace and summary bars in Figure 1) there are data suggesting that this may be due to metobolic interference whereby CBD merely prolongs the activity of THC. Another thing that was slightly strange was the fact we observed that CBD reduces temperature of Wistar rats. We used Sprague-Dawley rats for the Taffe et al 2015 paper because initial pilot experiments suggested that perhaps Wistar (male) rats were less sensitive to the body temperature lowering effects of THC [a follow up to that is available in a pre-print]. Yet Javadi-Paydar et al (2018) found effects of vaporized CBD in male and female Wistar rats. Perhaps this is due to the difference between CB1 receptor mediated effects and serotonin 1a (5-HT1a) receptor mediated effects. There is growing evidence that CBD works in part by activating 5-HT1a receptors, and activation of this receptor (e.g., by injecting the agonist 8-OH-DPAT) drops the body temperature of rats precipitously. As an example we had published a figure on this as a positive control in the Wright et al 2012 paper focused on the activity of the cathinone mephedrone [blog post summary]. To further complicate matters, the response of male Wistar rats to 8-OH-DPAT in that paper seemed to be slightly greater than the response of male Sprague-Dawley rats.

Figure 2: Plasma CBD in male and female Wistar rats after vapor inhalation (top panels) or injection (bottom panels).Click to enlarge.

An earlier version of this manuscript was posted as a pre-print on June 04, 2019, and updated with a version almost identical to the final submitted manuscript on Jul 18, 2019.

The first critical thing in this new paper was to get a point of reference for the doses the animals were getting through vaporized CBD versus i.p. injection. This figure shows the plasma levels experienced at the end of vapor sessions are within the range of plasma levels observed 35 minutes after an injection. This was in male and female Wistar rats, making it a follow-up to the thermoregulatory data in the Javadi-Paydar et al (2018) paper. One of the major ways that we control dose with our inhalation model is to alter the concentration of the drug in the e-liquid vehicle (we use propylene glycol; PG), while holding other parameter fixed. So for CBD we have used concentrations of 100 and 400 mg per mL of the PG. Now admittedly we have only published the effects of 30 mg/kg CBD when injected, at the lower end of the dose range. But based on some pilot work I doubt that we’ll find out that lower dose of CBD are causing hypothermia when injected- but it could still be about dose. Our time-point here for injection was designed for comparison with the inhalation model but levels were likely much higher at 5 minutes after injection whereas they were increasing essentially linearly across the inhalation interval. Nevertheless, we are clearly not getting much, much higher plasma loads of CBD via inhalation, at least not in the blood.

The next step for this paper was to replicate the body temperature effect, which we did in a group of male Wistar rats.

Figure 3: Temperature responses to vapor inhalation of CBD and nicotine in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Open and grey symbols depict statistical differences summarized in the manuscript. Adapted from Javadi-Paydar et al 2019. Click to enlarge.

We then went on to evaluate the effect of CBD inhalation on body temperature in male Sprague-Dawley rats and found a similar (perhaps slightly increased relative to the Wistar male rats) degree of hypothermia under identical vaping conditions.

Figure 3 shows that CBD concentration-dependent reductions in body temperature are found in male Sprague-Dawley rats (blue data series), thereby replicating and extending to an additional rat strain. The next experiment showed that the effect of CBD (at the 100 mg/mL concentration) is attenuated when animals are pre-treated with the 5-HT1a antagonist WAY 100,635. This shows that the 5-HT1a receptor is very likely involved in the hypothermic response to vaporized CBD, further adding to the growing evidence that CBD acts at this receptor.

You may have noticed that the top two panels of Figure 3 include a nicotine inhalation condition and a CBD + nicotine inhalation condition. There are a couple of reasons for this. Most generally, CBD has been shown to attenuate relapse to alcohol and cocaine self-administration in rats and may reduce the salience of cigarette-associated cues in humans. Reviews of the potential of CBD as an anti-drug abuse treatment can be found here and here. The second rationale is that human substance users often use more than one drug at a time. THC and CBD co-occur in cannabis. People frequently use cannabis along with tobacco and/or alcohol. Our work in Javadi-Paydar et al 2019 examined potential interactive effects of THC with nicotine thus it was an obvious followup to see if CBD interacted with nicotine. As you can see in Figure 3, the effect of nicotine alone on body temperature is not obvious in this group (although it did enhance locomotor activity). Nicotine did, however, increase the effect of CBD when the two were co-administered. Interestingly CBD also suppressed the locomotor activating effects of vaporized nicotine inhalation in this study. So the combined effect appears to be independent, not interactive- i.e., an opposition when the two independent drug effects are in the opposite direction (locomotor activity) and add together when the two independent drug effects are in the same direction (see Javadi-Paydar et al 2019 for more on this interactive drug logic and on the hypothermia caused by nicotine inhalation).

CBD is often described as non-psychoactive constituent of cannabis because it does not appear to have the same dramatic subjective properties as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Also because there are a lot of studies where it does not appear to do much to a rodent when administered by itself. There are exceptions, but I think a fair take away is that often enough it has been found inactive. This may very well be due to investigating CBD in assays that are tuned to detect THC-like effects that are presumably mediated by the CB1 or CB2 receptors. Our thermoregulatory assay, fortunately, is sensitive to both CB1 and 5-HT1a agonists. It may also be the case that the route of administration is a fundamental contributor to observing or not observing effects of CBD in a rat. There are several pharmacokinetic possibilities that may explain this. Our plasma data are fairly limited in a temporal sense and we don’t know from plasma levels what the kinetics look like in the brain. It could be that there is a much different blood/brain ratio associated with the two routes of administration. It may be that the speed of initial brain entry of a threshold amount of drug varies as well. Additional work will be necessary to full determine how the route of administration alters the effects of CBD in rats and how this might translate to the human condition.

 

April 30, 2019

Obtaining the Opioid Overdose Rescue Medication Narcan “Over the Counter” Isn’t Simple

Filed under: Drug Overdose, Opiates — mtaffe @ 11:12 am

The news is full of accounts of the opioid crisis, most pointedly on deaths and near-lethal overdose events. There has been a long and steady increase in opioid-related deaths as depicted on graphs like this one from the CDC. The trend started in 2000 and mostly involved prescription opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. These deaths stayed elevated increased less quickly in the past decade. Unfortunately, deaths associated with the non-prescription illicit opioid heroin started to increase in 2010, eventually reaching the levels associated with prescription opioids in 2016. Despite this long and steady increase in opioid-related deaths (and other indicators of harm were in parallel to this, ranging from epidemiological evidence of non-medical use to a demand for addiction treatment), it took until the recent Phase 3 to gain broad media and political attention. This more recent phase has been characterized by a rapid increase in deaths associated with highly potent synthetic opioids- most commonly fentanyl and, occasionally, derivatives of fentanyl. Much of this appears to be driven by illicit drug suppliers using fentanyl as a boosting agent without actually informing users that they are getting fentanyl. Fentanyl, and related derivatives, are popping up in association with heroin, in pressed pills faking the appearance of prescription opioid products (like Oxycontin) and in other non-opioid drugs such as cocaine. In September, my neighborhood had a small cluster of opioid-related overdoses (including 3 fatalities and 2 survivals) from an adulterated cocaine supply.

Although it took far too long to gain traction with first responders, there is an antidote to opioid overdose that can be helpful in preventing deaths. It is the compound called naloxone, which is an antagonist (blocker) of the mu opioid receptor. This is the brain receptor that is most involved in the respiratory suppression effects of opioids that leads to overdose deaths. If an individual who is intoxicated with an opioid is given a dose of naloxone, it can prevent death all by itself or it can slow the respiratory effects long enough to bring additional medical interventions to bear.  The wikipedia article reminds us “Naloxone was patented in 1961 and approved for opioid overdose in the United States in 1971“. So what’s the problem?

Availability. By the time anyone in the vicinity notices that a person is in respiratory suppression subsequent to their opioid use, this person may not have a lot of time before death. It may take time to get emergency services to the person or the person into the emergency room. There may not be anyone around who cares to intervene beyond calling 911. Which means that equipping first responders (EMS, firefighters, police) with an easily administered version of naloxone is a key component. This has been gradually accomplished with the Narcan nasal spray. There was resistance. In the waning years of the Bush administration there was still resistance to the idea of equipping first responders but this changed a lot during the Obama administration (overview from health affairs). First responders can only do so much, so in parallel there have been efforts to get Narcan into the hands of private citizens so that they can intervene in a suspected overdose. Naloxone by itself has minimal to no effects on an otherwise healthy individual and will not increase health problems brought about by overdose on many other non-opioid drugs so the dangers of a false alarm good Samaritan dosing with Narcan are pretty minimal. Many states have taken action to allow Narcan to be sold without a prescription and the major pharmacy chains Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS have stepped up to provide this service. So the antidote is “available” to anyone. The next phase is to get this into more people’s medicine cabinets, just in case. And I am writing up my experience, below, to show you why this medication is not truly “over the counter” in the way you expect and why it is a good idea for you to go out and get it. Apparently it has a 12 month expiration date and is probably still highly effective for 18-24 months and even expired Narcan is probably better than no intervention when someone is overdosing on an opioid.

My experience obtaining “over the counter” Narcan.

I had been meaning to secure a Narcan kit for my medicine cabinet for a few years and just never go around to it. I’m a parent of teens and a friend and neighbor to other parents of teens. Teens, as they do, have a chance of coming in contact with opiods, of using opioids and of being around other kids who are using opioids. Intentionally or, as we saw in the fatalities in my neighborhood in 2018, unintentionally due to contamination of other drugs with fentanyl. And the surgeon general issued an Advisory reminding us that “You have an important role to play in addressing this public health crisis“. So I went down to my local CVS and tried to obtain a nasal Narcan kit.

The first thing to understand is that it is not “over the counter” like ibuprofen or condoms. You have to go to the pharmacist and ask for it. I did so and it was clear to me that this was the first time this particular pharmacist had dealt with the process. She was informed and super great about it but it was not a familiar process. She had to first print out some warning / informational page. This took time and made me wonder why they don’t print out a few and stick them under the supply on the shelf. I don’t think I would have had to show identification but I am not entirely sure, I was there for sudafed and had already shown it to her for that purpose.

What I did find out is that one has to be 18 years of age or older to purchase. This is a problem and a big one, if you ask me. Teens are a clear risk group and their peers should be able to obtain Narcan. As a related issue, I was informed it would be $130 for the two-dose nasal spray kit. No big deal for me, but you can imagine that this may be a HUGE barrier for kids or for street / homeless people. These are details you will want to check in your local jurisdiction because I would not be surprised if there are significant variations in the state laws and differences across drug store / pharmacy chain policies. Teen access and cost are barriers in my city, making it even more important in my view for parents to obtain the Narcan, put it in their medicine cabinet and tell their teens where it is and how to use it. It may help to review a youtube video on what overdose looks like (such as this one). I even made my kid take it to Coachella and there was very little fussing about that. It doesn’t have to be some huge thing, just a recognition that stuff can happen and it is better to be prepared.

Okay, back to the pharmacy process. I was told they have to “treat it like a prescription” in their system. Okay, no biggie for me but could be a little off-putting for teens, homeless and the illicit drug using community generally. The pharmacist asked me three questions- did I use drugs (no), was I in contact with anyone using drugs (I said no since I wasn’t thinking of some specific person) and a third similar question I can’t recall but also answered “no”. The pharmacist next informed me that she could not sell me Narcan if I answered no to all three questions. Which is another barrier- apparently the CVS policy in my city is to not sell it to anyone for ill defined general prophylaxis safety reasons. This was of course my actual reason. So I said “whoa, whoa, back up, I’ll give you a yes on the second question”. Okay phew, back on track. I was next asked “What is the name of this individual?” WHAT? As you can see, this is another huge barrier to the way Narcan is provided “over the counter”. At least in my city / state and at the CVS pharmacy. Again, YMMV in your location.

As I said the pharmacist was totally helpful. She fully realized what I was doing and did not give me any static when I reversed my “no” to the second question and answered her person query with “John Doe”. She did ask for an address (!) which I made up from the surrounding streets- I don’t know what would have happened if she had entered an address that didn’t exist. I also had to give a phone number for this person! I also made that one up but…..in the final stages of the process  got queried about text messages and it was clear that I’d accidentally made up a phone number that was already in the CVS database for a real customer. The pharmacist kindly deleted the phone number from the record.

I eventually walked out with a Narcan kit. $130 poorer and about 30 minutes after starting the process. There was no line at the pharmacy that particular day but it would not be unusual to be waiting in line. This is not a process that facilitates a rapid response to an overdosing individual.

You can see, that in addition to the time it takes, all of the process to obtain Narcan that I experiences presents several barriers. A person seeking Narcan under the stress of an overdosing friend might simply walk away if they didn’t have the money, weren’t 18 yet or were scared off by the requests for information on the victim and didn’t think to lie. For all I know this particular pharmacist was cool but another one might get sticky about my obvious lying with respect to the “John Doe” that they needed to enter as the patient in their database for the sale.

 

Additional Reading: Dose Makes the Poison blog fentanyl archive.

March 31, 2019

Taffe Laboratory 2.0

Filed under: Careerism, Lab Alumni — mtaffe @ 1:39 pm

Following 19 years of operation at The Scripps Research Institute, the Taffe Laboratory is moving to the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, effective April 1, 2019.

I was first appointed Assistant Professor at TSRI in August of 2000.  I had been a postdoc at TSRI from December 1996 and my lab head departed the institute in early 2000, leaving me in charge. TSRI provided the opportunity for me to be promoted to faculty if I could get a major grant funded. My first NIH R01 was funded September 11, 200 and I have been running a laboratory ever since. In that time I have published 69 items indexed on PubMed, including a few datasets leftover from my postdoctoral work, a couple of commentaries and a couple of reviews. The laboratory survived a major change in research models somewhere around 2008 and has remained (touch wood) funded by the NIH. I am intensely grateful to the taxpayers of the United States for supporting our work over the years.

In February of 2019, I accepted the UCSD Chancellor’s offer of a Full Professor position in the Department of Psychiatry. This offer capped an 18 month recruiting effort spearheaded by the Chair and Vice-Chair for Research of the Department of Psychiatry. It required considerable effort on their part, was far more complicated than just the part that affects me and my laboratory and I am grateful that they sustained the effort. It has been…illuminating.

EmptyOffice

My new work home

Today is my last formal day at TSRI and tomorrow I begin the next stage of my career as an academic scientist. This is a fantastic opportunity and will be a tremendous step for my Laboratory as it is now, and as it will be in the future. It is almost unbelievable that I have been able to avoid the nearly inevitably academic nomad requirement through two postdoctoral appointments, an initial faculty appointment and, now, the mid-career jump. This just does not happen in academic scientific careers.

As I said on a Facebook post, I am brought to this new opportunity by the contributions of everyone who has worked in my laboratory over the years.

The Taffe Lab has always been a group effort and I would never be in this position without the heroic work of my technical staff including Amber and Stef and Chris and Glen and PK and Yanabel and Kevin and of course (cue fanfare) Sophia. Simon was a great first postdoc to help a noob prof. Becky and Jerry and Michelle and Shawn and Jacques and Mehrak and Eric and Arnold have all built this Lab with their efforts. We would not have accomplished much without them.

For those less familiar with the academic career in science, my job will not change all that much. I am still expected to get extramural research grants, to generate data, publish papers and help to advance the careers of younger scientists. I will continue to have a heavy focus of my laboratory on the problems associated with recreational drugs, including opioids, stimulants and cannabis.

June 22, 2018

An oxycodone vaccine prevents the acquisition of self-administration

Filed under: Opiates, Vaccines — mtaffe @ 2:59 pm

A paper from the laboratory has recently been accepted for publication .

Nguyen*, J.D., Hwang*, C.S., Grant, Y., Janda, K.D.. and Taffe, M.A. Prophylactic vaccination protects against the development of oxycodone self-administration.  Neuropharmacology, 2018, 138:292-303. [ Publisher Link ][ Free Author Share ]

This paper reflects joint effort with members of the Janda laboratory in our ongoing collaboration [ related posts ] to evaluate their anti-drug vaccines for efficacy in rat models of drug exposure and abuse. In this study we focused on a vaccine that induced antibodies that bind to oxycodone and evaluated the efficacy of this active vaccine (Oxy-TT) versus the carrier protein tetanus toxoid (TT). Our primary goal was to examine the intravenous self-administration of oxycodone in the rats.

This reorganization of Figure 2 from the paper depicts one of the key findings. The right panel shows the average number of infusions of oxycodone (0.06 mg/kg/infusion) obtained by subgroups of the Oxy-TT and TT rats. This median split analysis divides the Upper from Lower halves of the distribution based on average oxycodone responding across the 18 session acquisition interval. The distribution for the Oxy-TT group was more bimodal compared with the TT control group, indicating that some Oxy-TT rats took very little oxycodone across the acquisition period and some self-administered more. We defined successful acquisition as an average of 7 or more infusions obtained across two sequential days and the left panel reflects the proportion of the entire distributions of TT versus Oxy-TT that met this standard. Combined, we can infer that about 40% of the Oxy-TT animals essentially failed to acquire stable self-administration behavioral whereas all of the TT group did under these conditions. While it may seem disappointing to some eyes that the vaccine “worked” to prevent the establishment of stable self-administration in only 40% of the animals, this needs to be viewed in the context of human substance abuse. Only minorities of the individuals who try a given drug will go on to develop a habitual use pattern. This can be observed (cross-sectionally) in the Monitoring the Future data [vol 1 adolescents; vol 2 adults], in Schramm-Sapyta et al 2009 and in Anthony et al, 1994. The best way to reduce harm from repetitive use problems with drugs is to prevent it from progressing to this stage in the first place. Our study shows that the Oxy-TT vaccine is potentially capable of protecting a substantial subset of those individuals who sample a drug enough to become habitual users.

These panels from Figure 5 of the paper show that there was basic biological efficacy of the vaccine. These data show the plasma (left panel) and brain (right panel) amounts of oxycodone in the two vaccine groups after administration of 1.0 or 2.0 mg/kg subcutaneously. This shows that considerably more oxycodone is in the plasma of the Oxy-TT groups (as is expected since the antibodies should retain drug in the bloodstream and not let it get into other tissues. Lesser amounts of oxycodone were in the brains of the Oxy-TT group as well which is again consistent with the anticipated effects of successful anti-drug vaccination.

The second major behavioral finding is a bit more subtle. As you can see from the first figure, above, the Oxy-TT rats that did acquire self-administration responded for more drug than did the TT control animals. This is consistent with the second figure, i.e., that less of each infusion of drug was reaching the brain. Thus, assuming the rats on average seek the same approximate amount of drug in their brain, the vaccine resulted in an increase in self-administration behavior. In order to probe the extent to which the rats prefer to self-administer oxycodone we increased the workload. In training the rats only had to make one lever response for each infusion of drug, known as a Fixed Ratio 1 (FR1) contingency. But the Progressive Ratio procedure makes each successive infusion within the daily session cost more. When we did that, the Oxy-TT animals decreased their intake to a greater extent than did the TT rats. This figure is from a second cohort of rat groups that were trained to self-administer a

higher per-infusion dose (0.15 mg/kg/inf) of oxycodone. Under these conditions the Lower half of the Oxy-TT group self-administered about the same amount of drug as the entire TT group and the Upper half self-administered more. The figure depicts mean intake, post-acquisition, in four different workload conditions, starting and ending with the FR1 training condition. The two middle bars depict the oxycodone intake under two PR schedules which differ in steepness of the incrementing workload. There was a change for the TT group only in the hardest PR condition but this did not reach statistical significance. In contrast the overall number of infusions in a session that were obtained by the Oxy-TT animals (this is for the entire group) were reduced when it took more responses to obtain successive infusions. This shows that despite self-administering slightly more oxycodone when it is easy to get (FR1), the Oxy-TT animals are more likely to reduce their intake when the conditions are made slightly more difficult. Making drugs more difficult to obtain is, of course, one of the population level strategies we use to combat drug addiction. This is reflected in taxes and the regulation of sales of alcohol and tobacco that have been proven to reduce problematic use of these legal substances. Parents routinely use different strategies to make it more difficult for their teenagers to access drugs of all types. Many therapeutic interventions for drug abusers involve lifestyle changes that make getting access to drug more laborious. Thus, a strategy that makes an individual more liable to reduce their drug use when the costs increase has the potential for success in reducing drug use harms.

This last finding also has important implications for the design of human clinical trials that attempt to test the efficacy of anti-drug vaccines. The default approach has been to use measures of drug use as the measure of “success” of the trial. These data suggest that vaccinated people could use the same or even slightly more drug and still be getting a protective effect. That is, they might become more susceptible to other interventions which, for example, raise the cost or effort of getting drug.

__

*authors contributed equally

Funding for this work provided by USPHS Grants R01 DA035281, R01 DA024705, UH3 DA041146 (K.D.J.) and F32 AI126628 (C.S.W.).

October 16, 2017

High ambient temperature facilitates MDMA self-administration

Filed under: IVSA, MDMA, Thermoregulation — mtaffe @ 1:02 pm

The following has recently been accepted for publication:

Aarde, S.M., Huang, P-K  and Taffe, M.A. High Ambient Temperature Facilitates The Acquisition Of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) Self-Administration. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 2017, in press.  [ Publisher Site ][ PubMed ]

This study was motivated by a finding from Cornish and colleagues in 2003 where they showed that rats trained to self-administer MDMA at 21 °C ambient temperature will significantly increase their drug intake when placed in a 30 °C ambient temperature. This finding was of interest to our lab because of our longstanding interest in the role of the body temperature response to MDMA. In brief, the effect of a given dose of MDMA at ~21-24 °C is generally to lower a rat’s body temperature whereas the same dose given at ~27-30 °C elevates body temperature. The typical laboratory ambient temperature of about 21-24 °C is actually somewhat cold for a rat since their point of thermoneutrality is up around 30 °C.  This led us to think that perhaps one of the reasons why MDMA is a poor reinforcer in the intravenous self-administration (IVSA) paradigm is because it lowers body temperature. If this effect is aversive to the rat, this may oppose the rewarding properties of the drug. Consequently, the Cornish finding may have illustrated increased IVSA due to a blunted hypothermia (but that study didn’t measure it). This rationale formed the basis for an entire Aim of a grant proposal which was submitted in original form in 2007 and eventually funded in 2011 (R01 DA024105-01A2).

In this figure from the paper we present the number of MDMA infusions (1.0 mg/kg/infusion) obtained by the groups of rats trained to self-administer under Cold (20 °C; N=12) or Hot (30 °C; N=11) ambient conditions in two-hour sessions. The schedule of reinforcement was FR5 for these studies meaning that each infusion required that the rat make five lever presses. As is obvious from the figure, the Hot group obtained more infusions of MDMA than did the Cold group. On session 16 only the drug-free vehicle was available and the increased responding (“saline bursting”) can be interpreted as a sign of drug-seeking behavior. This is particularly important for the Cold group given their very low (but consistent) numbers of infusions obtained. So to this point of the study, the behavior replicates and extends the work of Cornish and colleagues in 2003. They trained their rats in a lower ambient condition and then did post-acquisition tests at a higher ambient temperature and so the effect of ongoing experience in cold versus hot conditions could not be assessed. Interestingly, however, Feduccia and colleagues (2010) did a study much more like ours in design and failed to find any difference in the acquisition of IVSA in cold versus hot ambient conditions. There are a few procedural differences which may explain the difference in outcome but additional experiments would be required for firm conclusions. One potential difference is the selection of FR1 reward contingency which led to similar behavior in the MDMA groups and the groups allowed to self-administer saline only in that study. Although we did not have saline-only controls, our lever discrimination remained over 80% in both groups. In Aarde et al (2013) we ran a saline-only control group, pretrained to lever press for food at FR5, at normal laboratory ambient temperature (24 °C) and showed that lever discrimination breaks down significantly within the first 10 sessions of saline IVSA.

As outlined above, we were interested in the nature of the body temperature response during self-administration and how this might be changed by different ambient temperature conditions. Feduccia and colleagues had found no change in body temperature induced by MDMA IVSA at all, but their monitoring was via pre- and post-session rectal sampling. The temperature response to MDMA in rats is transient and it was likely that the sampling at 2 hours after the start of the session missed the dynamic response. This technique also requires handling the rats which can cause a stress response which may increase the body temperature. Our study used implanted radiotelemetry to observe the temperature response during the session. This adaptation of a figure from the paper presents 30 min averages (data collected every 5 minutes) of body temperature across the self-administration session and for one hour after the drug was no longer available. The daily responses are collapsed across blocks of 5-6 sequential training days. The takeaway here is that body temperature decreased in both Hot and Cold groups during the initial hour of the self-administration session and this response was gradually blunted in the Hot group across the self-administration training. The similar degree of hypothermia early in the acquisition phase and the course of tolerance versus drug intake in the Hot group was not consistent with our original hypothesis. It looked much more as though MDMA caused hypothermia under all training conditions and any attenuation of that response followed, rather than caused, increased drug intake over time.

To further probe the role of ambient temperature we next switched the temperature conditions and found that MDMA IVSA was unchanged within the groups. As if they’d been set on a preference trajectory. The failure to increase drug intake in the Cold group when placed in higher ambient temperature conditions was discordant with the original Cornish finding and we do not know why this might be the case. Most importantly, the Hot-trained group self-administered more drug in Cold ambient then did the Cold-trained group in Hot ambient and developed a more pronounced drop in body temperature. This showed that the ongoing self-administration training did not categorically alter the temperature response to MDMA in these animals.

The last study in the self-administering groups examined the effect of non-contingent administration of a range of MDMA doses (1-5 mg/kg, i.v.) on the body temperature response under Hot and Cold ambient temperature conditions. Up to this point, the animals self-selected their doses and so the interaction of dose with the temperature responses could not be easily disentangled. This last study found that hypothermia depended on dose, ambient temperature and the prior MDMA intake of the rat. Those individuals who self-administered very low amounts across the study (regardless of ambient temperature condition) were most sensitive to MDMA-induced hypothermia. Hypothermia was produced in both subgroups under Cold ambient, albeit to a greater degree in the animals with less cumulative MDMA intake. The takeaway from this part of the study is less clear cut. Clearly the hypothermic response to  MDMA under low ambient temperature conditions was only quantitatively, not categorically, altered in rats that self-administered more MDMA. Temperature responses under higher ambient temperature conditions were blunted- to the point that 3-5 mg/kg MDMA, i.v., did not change body temperature from baseline in the higher preference subgroup and while 2-3 mg/kg lowered body temperature in the lower-preference subgroup, 4-5 mg/kg did not.  [In general, the dose-effect relationship for MDMA-induced hypothermia does not reflect across Cold and Hot ambient temperatures. A high MDMA dose produces both less hypothermia under Cold conditions and increased hyperthermia under Hot conditions. Likewise, a moderate dose produces less hyperthermia in Hot conditions and more hypothermia in Cold ambient temperature conditions.] Thus, these data allow for the possibility that incremental blunting of the hypothermic response to MDMA may have some effect on sustaining IVSA behavior. Still, the overall thrust of this study suggests that the body temperature response is not a primary driver of self-administration of MDMA.

An additional study examined the effect of MDMA on intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) reward in a different group of animals with no MDMA self-administration history. In ICSS the animal makes behavioral responses in response to small amounts of electrical current delivered to a specific region of the brain. We used a thresholding procedure in which the amount of current required for the animal to feel a rewarding effect can be determined from day to day. This procedure has been used by many laboratories over decades to show that treatments that make the animal feel good (such as an injection of methamphetamine) lower reward thresholds whereas conditions that make the animal feel bad (such as drug withdrawal in a dependent rat) lead to increased reward thresholds. Our study found that thresholds were increased merely by being placed in a hot environment (these data are all relative to individual thresholds from a 24 °C uninjected test session). Under Cold conditions, a 2.5 mg/kg MDMA, i.p., injection reduced reward thresholds in a manner consistent with the effects of methamphetamine, MDPV or mephedrone (Nguyen et al, 2016). Under Hot conditions, the same MDMA dose only returned reward thresholds to a baseline established under 24 °C without producing a pro-reward effect.

 

This ICSS experiment supports an interpretation of increased MDMA self-administration under high ambient temperature conditions as a normalization of negative affect, rather than an enhancement of the positive, feel-good subjective effects of MDMA.

September 21, 2017

Locomotor and Reinforcing Effects Of Pentedrone, Pentylone and Methylone

Filed under: Cathinones, Methylone — mtaffe @ 9:59 am

Pentylone and pentedrone are designer drugs within the cathinone stimulant class of drugs that are often referred to as “bathsalts”. These two entities have appeared in the recreational user populations as confirmed by results from ecstasydata.org, a review of trip reports on bluelight.org and erowid.org, as well as in a few scientific reports.

Second-generation substituted cathinone drugs such as pentylone and pentedrone have received less research attention compared with first generation bathsalts such as mephedrone and, in particular, methylone. This is sufficient motivation to explore the abuse liability and other properties of the more recently emerged drugs. In addition, this growing diversity of cathinone derivatives allows us to further determine the role of various structural substitution elements that may be common to both amphetamine and cathinone drugs of abuse. In this study, we investigated the 3,4-methylenedioxy motif  in the contrast of the effects of pentedrone with pentylone. This motif, when added to methamphetamine to produce MDMA, confers reduced rewarding potency and efficacy, reduced locomotor potency, reduced efficacy to induce stereotyped, repetitive behavior and increased thermoregulatory disruption. In contrast, the presence of the 3,4-methylenedioxy substitution produces no change in vivo in the context of the closely related, restricted transporter inhibitor cathinones α-PVP and MDPV which exhibit similar efficacy and potency on both locomotor and self-administration assays in rats . Pentedrone and pentylone also include the extended alkyl-tail carbon chain that is present on MDPV and α-PVP which may be related to the restriction of those drugs to transporter inhibition. This might predict that the 3,4-methylenedioxy motif has minimal impact on these additional compounds (which lack the pyrrolidine ring of MDPV and α-PVP).

The following has recently been accepted for publication:

Javadi-Paydar, M., Nguyen, J.D., Vandewater, S.A., Dickerson, T.J., and Taffe, M.A. Locomotor and Reinforcing Effects Of Pentedrone, Pentylone and Methylone In Rats. Neuropharmacology, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.09.002. [ Publisher Site ][ PubMed ]

We assessed locomotor activity changes produced by i.p. injection of Pentylone and Pentedrone in contrast with the effects of Methylone. This was conducted in a group of female rats (N=8) prepared with radiotelemetry devices which report both both temperature and an activity rate within a housing chamber. These studies found that 1 mg/kg of any of these drugs was insufficient to significantly increase activity, however increases were observed for 5 or 10 mg/kg of each compound. There were similar dose-effect relationships found in a group of male rats.

There was no sign of the type of reduction in activity that is often seen after high dose methamphetamine in the ~5-10 mg/kg range. Such reductions are produced because the rat is engaged in stereotyped, repetitive behaviors (called “stereotypy”) which resolve over the course of about 90-120 minutes, depending on dose, whereupon a boost in activity is often observed. This pattern we are reporting here is, however, fairly consistent with what would be observed for MDMA in this 5-10 mg/kg dose range. So these results are as would be predicted from the pharmacology and by reference to the better-studied entactogen compound, MDMA.

 

We also assessed drug self-administration by way of conducting dose-substitution under Fixed Ratio 1 (FR1) conditions. (Each lever press results in an infusion of drug.). This was conducted in a group of female rats who had been trained originally with alpha-PVP (N=4) or Pentedrone (N=6), but this training history was essentially irrelevant to the dose-response and is not separated for the analysis.

In this figure we depict the mean infusions of the three drugs that are obtained across a range of doses.  A significant difference from vehicle is indicated with *, from the 0.025 mg/kg dose with &, from the 0.05 mg/kg dose with §, from the 0.30 mg/kg dose by % and a significant difference from methylone and α-PHP, respectively, is indicated with #. The takeaway points are first that the ascending and descending limbs of the typical “inverted-U” dose effect function have been captured. This is important to enhance confidence that you are not missing a dose that would engender peak responding. So the essentially parallel curves for Methylone and Pentylone can be interpreted as nearly identical potency of the drugs. Pentylone is more effective, as can be interpreted by the fact the curve is shifted upwards, relative to the one for Methylone. In contrast, the peak for Pentedrone is at a lower dose, indicating that this compound is more potent. The efficacy is not clearly different from either other drug as the curve falls somewhat in between in terms of the peak number of infusions obtained.

 

Overall this study confirms that differences between Pentylone and Pentedrone are subtle and they exhibit a profile of dose-effect relationships that is as would be predicted for entactogens. Therefore the 3,4-methylenedioxy motif appears to convey little difference in the context of this core structure. There is some evidence for enhanced abuse liability relative to Methylone and this will be of great interest to follow up with additional models. The difference between Pentylone and Methylone lies in the presence of the extended alpha alkyl chain which enhances lipophilicity, potentially letting Pentylone enter the brain more rapidly.

May 22, 2017

Congressional Outreach

Filed under: ASPET, Experimental Biology / ASPET, Op/Ed, Public Health — mtaffe @ 11:53 am

We are very proud to announce that Jacques D. Nguyen, PhD,  was selected by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) to participate in their Washington Fellows Program for 2017. Jacques has been a very productive member of the Taffe Laboratory since joining it as a postdoctoral trainee in early 2015 and he still manages to find time to think about broader issues of science policy. He has been an active participant in ASPET as an academic society in addition to presenting work at the annual meetings.

Jacques is pictured, in this photo, preparing to discuss science policy with the staff of a San Diego Congressman,  Rep. Scott Peters.

For a little bit of background, the ASPET Washington Fellows Mission statement:

Program Mission

The mission of the ASPET Washington Fellows Program is to enable developing and early career scientists interested in science policy to learn about and become more engaged in public policy issues.

Fellows will develop an understanding of how public policy decisions made in Washington help shape and impact science policy, such as funding for the National Institutes of Health and other science agencies. Fellows will also learn how to advocate effectively on Capitol Hill and in their home districts.

This program will help fellows develop the skills and insights to become future leaders in science. 

 

April 13, 2017

Pre-Prints

Filed under: Careerism, NIH — mtaffe @ 10:11 am

In 2017 the NIH issued NOT-OD-17-050 Reporting Preprints and Other Interim Research Products to encourage funded investigators to speed the dissemination of tax-payer funded research by citing and claiming pre-prints as products of NIH funding.

The NIH encourages investigators to use interim research products, such as preprints, to speed the dissemination and enhance the rigor of their work. This notice clarifies reporting instructions to allow investigators to cite their interim research products and claim them as products of NIH funding.

Pre-prints are manuscripts (and other interim research products) which have not undergone peer-review and formal acceptance for publication.

The most critical implication of this new policy is for grant preparation.

Interim research products can be cited anywhere other research products are cited.  These sections include the following:

The benefits should be clear. Instead of having to describe work as being “in preparation” or “submitted” one can now point to a link and any interested reviewers can see it for themselves. This will be critical on the CV or Biosketch of junior scientists in transition. The publishing timeline is slow compared to their needs with respect to finding a postdoc appointment after graduate school, winning a fellowship as a postdoc or getting a job offer after postdoctoral training.

This will potentially help all PIs with their grant applications as well. Productivity can be a major point of review for new applicants, for renewal applications and indeed for any application if a PI is perceived to have too much funding. Productivity as reflected in peer reviewed published papers is not always under the direct control of the research team- the publication racket can induce significant unexpected delays. This pre-print policy allows the grant applicant to post pretty much anything that they want. It will potentially function as a hybrid of Preliminary Data and Publications. “Potentially” because there is no obligation for any reviewer to consider these documents.

I have decided to respond to this new initiative, for now, by submitting manuscripts to bioRχiv (http://biorxiv.org). I have found the submission process to be relatively easy on the scale of the usual manuscript submission for publication or to the PMC repository. The first two I submitted were available online within 24 h of my upload.

The critical question for most of us will be to try to determine what our threshold should be for publicizing any pre-print or interim research product. I have come to the conclusion that a manuscript that we have already submitted for publication somewhere clearly fits the bill as a sufficiently complete work to put on a pre-print server. A manuscript that we plan to submit for peer review essentially concurrently is also very clearly sufficient and the only difference here, to my view, is whether we are really, really at a submittable-draft stage or maybe jumping the gun with the pre-print.

The following three manuscripts had already been reviewed by the time I put them up on bioRχiv. I would characterize two of the reviews as being concerned about interpretation of the data in a way that would require a LOT more data to satisfy. This appears to me to satisfy one potential goal of posting pre-prints. I.e., that people can interpret the quality and meaning of the data for themselves before the authors manage to satisfy all theoretical concerns, sidelines or unlikely possibilities that might be required for publication acceptance. The third one is awaiting one more figure of data for the resubmission. We thought we had a decent rebuttal without it, one that would possibly fly with the editor. But we are also generating new data that is relevant. This has been slower to emerge than I had hoped and we have noticed some recent publication activity in this area. Posting this manuscript as a pre-print is essentially putting down a priority marker at this time.

Javadi-Paydar, M., Nguyen, J.D., Grant, Y., Vandewater, S.A., Cole, M., and Taffe, M.A. Effects Of Δ9-THC And Cannabidiol Vapor Inhalation In Male And Female Rats.  bioRχiv, 2017, Posted April 18, 2017 doi:

Taffe, M.A. Wheel running increases hyperthermia and mortality rate following 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in rats. bioRχiv, 2017, Posted April 11, 2017 doi:

Aarde, S.M., Huang, P-K  and Taffe, M.A. High Ambient Temperature Facilitates The Acquisition Of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) Self-Administration. bioRχiv, 2017, Posted April 4, 2017 doi:

 

March 19, 2017

Vaccination against methamphetamine works in female rats

Filed under: Methamphetamine, Vaccines, Vape inhalation, Vapor Inhalation — mtaffe @ 9:32 am

We have shown that a vaccine designed to blunt the effects of methamphetamine works in male rats in two prior publications, summarized here and here. We have also had success showing that vaccines directed against the synthetic cathinones MDPV (“bathsalts”) and alpha-PVP (“flakka”) work to reduce the effects of those drugs. A brief video outlining the approach to generating vaccines that might be helpful for drug abused created by NIDA can be found here.

The following has recently been accepted for publication:

Nguyen, J.D., Bremer, P.T., Hwang, C.S., Vandewater, S.A., Collins, K.C., Creehan, K.M., Janda, K.D. and Taffe, M.A. Effective active vaccination against methamphetamine in female rats, Drug Alcohol Depend, 2017, 175:179-186. [Publisher Site] [PubMed]

In this study we show that an increase in the amount that female rats move around their cages after an injection of methamphetamine is reduced in the MH6-KLH vaccinated rats.

As you can see in the explainer video, the main principle of anti-drug vaccination is that antibodies can bind some of the drug molecules (methamphetamine in this case) in the bloodstream, thereby preventing them from getting into the brain. This capacity to retain methamphetamine is relatively fixed at a given point in the vaccine sequence, thus administering a sufficiently high dose can (should) overcome the protection.

In our data, the effects of the vaccine were dose dependent. This is Figure 4 from the paper which depicts locomotor activity rates (counts per minute) in the MH6-KLH and KLH groups in the first and second hours after injection of methamphetamine in three doses [Significant differences from the Vehicle and 0.25 mg/kg within Group and Hour are indicated by §, from Vehicle (only) by # and from the 0.5 mg/kg condition by &. ]. There is a dose-dependent increase in activity rate compared with the vehicle injection condition. With respect to the active vaccination group, complete protection was found at the 0.25 mg/kg dose and partial protection at 0.5 mg/kg compared with the KLH group; the two groups were about the same after 1.0 mg/kg was injected. This further enhances our ability to interpret these data as a specific effect of the vaccination and to determine where the threshold for effective protection may lie.

There was another finding in this study which was slightly disappointing in terms of the vaccine study but greatly enhanced our understanding of another thing that we have been working on, namely vapor inhalation techniques to deliver drugs to rats for various research purposes. Most specifically we showed that e-cigarette type vapor inhalation of methamphetamine (and MDPV and mephedrone) increases the activity of male rats to a similar extent as it does when injected (blogpost overview). We used this model in the present study as well and confirmed that just as with male rats, the female rats activity in the cage was increased after vapor inhalation of methamphetamine to about the same extent as after the injected doses. Therefore up to this point in time we were assuming that the dose delivered to the rat was approximately similar when similar behavioral results were produced.

Unfortunately there was no difference in the effects of inhaled methamphetamine across the vaccinated and control groups of rats. We originally interpreted this as potentially a difference in the rate of drug penetration into the brain which minimized the ability of the vaccine-generated antibodies to prevent locomotor effects.

Upon reviewer request we then examined the blood levels of methamphetamine after injection (0.25, 1.0 mg/kg, i.p.) and the inhalation condition in a different group of unvaccinated female rats. We found that methamphetamine was about ten times higher in the blood after inhalation versus injection in this new study. This of course explains why the vaccinated group was not protected, i.e., the dose under inhalation was far past the ability of the antibodies to sequester in the bloodstream.

The curious thing is still why a similar level of locomotor activity was produced at the 10-fold difference in methamphetamine levels. Very likely this is due to the rate at which drug is delivered to the animal- in our inhalation model this takes place over 30 minutes whereas an injection takes seconds. Obviously one of our next avenues of research is to better determine the way that drug levels increase in the blood during vapor inhalation.

January 2, 2017

Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences on Novel Psychoactive Substances

Filed under: 4-MMC/Mephedrone, Cannabimimetics, Cathinones, IVSA, MDPV, Methylone — mtaffe @ 2:08 pm

There is a new Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience book on New and Emerging Psychoactive Substances that has been organized by Michael H. Baumann, Ph.D., of the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drub Abuse. This editorial effort resulted in 18 chapters on various topics of interest which are now available online.

Chapter 1: Madras, B. The Growing Problem of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) [link]

Chapter 2: Glennon, R.A. and Dukat, M. Structure-Activity Relationships of Synthetic Cathinones [link]

Chapter 3: Simmler, L.D. and Liechti, M.E. Interactions of Cathinone NPS with Human Transporters and Receptors in Transfected Cells [link]

Chapter 4: Solis, E. Electrophysiological Actions of Synthetic Cathinones on Monoamine Transporters [link]

Chapter 5: Baumann, M.H., Bukhari, M.O., Lehner, K.R., Anizan, S., Rice, K.C., Concheiro, M. and Huestis, M.A. Neuropharmacology of 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), its Metabolites, and Related Analogs [link]

Chapter 6: Negus, S.S. and Banks, M.L. Decoding the Structure of Abuse Potential for New Psychoactive Substances: Structure-Activity Relationships for Abuse-Related Effects of 4-Substituted Methcathinone Analogs [link]

Chapter 7: Watterson, L.R. and Olive, M.F. Reinforcing Effects of Cathinone NPS in the Intravenous Drug Self-Administration Paradigm [link]

Chapter 8: Aarde, S.M. and Taffe, M.A. Predicting the Abuse Liability of Entactogen-Class, New and Emerging Psychoactive Substances via Preclinical Models of Drug Self-administration.[link]

Chapter 9: King, H.E. and Riley, A.L. The Affective Properties of Synthetic Cathinones: Role of Reward and Aversion in Their Abuse [link]

Chapter 10: Kiyatkin, E.A. and Ren, S.E. MDMA, Methylone, and MDPV: Drug-induced Brain Hyperthermia and its Modulation by Activity State and Environment [link]

Chapter 11: Angoa-Pérez, M., Anneken, J.H., Kuhn, D.M. Neurotoxicology of Synthetic Cathinone Analogs [link]

Chapter 12: Wiley, J.L, Marusich, J.A. and Thomas, B.F. Combination Chemistry: Structure–Activity Relationships of Novel Psychoactive Cannabinoids [link]

Chapter 13: Tai, S. and Fantegrossi, W.E. Pharmacological and Toxicological Effects of Synthetic Cannabinoids and Their Metabolites [link]

Chapter 14: Järbe, T.U.C. and Raghav, J.G. Tripping with Synthetic Cannabinoids (‘Spice’): Anecdotal and Experimental Observations in Animals and Man [link]

Chapter 15:Halberstadt, A.L. Pharmacology and Toxicology of N-Benzylphenethylamine (“NBOMe”) Hallucinogens [link]

Chapter 16: Papaseit, E., Molto, J., Muga, R., Torrens, M., de la Torre, R. and Farre, M. Clinical Pharmacology of the Synthetic
Cathinone Mephedrone [link]

Chapter 17: Mayer, F.P., Luf, A., Nagy, C., Holy, M., Schmid, R., Freissmuth, M., Sitte, H.H. Application of a Combined Approach to Identify New Psychoactive Street Drugs and Decipher Their Mechanisms at Monoamine Transporters [link]

Chapter 18: Schifano, F., Orsolini, L., Papanti, D., Corkery, J. NPS: Medical Consequences Associated with Their Intake [link]

 

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