The other week in class we discussed the Akt/Gsk pathway and Dopamine receptors. To put it lightly the article we read was dense. Through all the scientific language and technical terms one general idea stood out. Your body releases dopamine, dopamine binds these receptors, and the receptors keep Akt inactive so Gsk can remain active and cause cellular responses. As exciting as that all sounds what does it matter? Well dopamine is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain and these proteins play a major role in its signaling pathway. Research is currently investigating the role of these signaling proteins in psychological disorders such as Bipolar and Schizophrenia. The antipsychotics we use now are effective but come with harsh side-effects. This is because these pharmaceuticals typically block dopamine receptors and while this works to stop the psychological problems, it causes a widespread effect on the body. The hope is that the issue with psychological disorders is that maybe the problem lies farther downstream from the dopamine receptor in the Akt/Gsk pathway. If we can find a protein or something that is causing the problem and can find a way to fix it we can hopefully manage psychological disorders without affecting something as major as dopamine receptors. This is easier said than done. The kind of research it takes to find what protein is causing the issue and figuring out a way to fix it costs huge amounts of money and takes a lot of time. But, nonetheless, the important of the Akt/Gsk pathway in the body cannot be undervalued. Some day it may lead to a better antipsychotic drug, or just a better understanding of dopamine.
The Cobbers on the Brain blog is a component of the Neurochemistry course at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, and written by students.
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