Neurons use electrical signals called action potentials to propagate information along axons and dendrites. Otto Loewi received the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1936) for the discovery that small molecules (neurotransmitters) are the information carriers in inter-neuron communication at synapses.
Neuronal signalling requires fast (milliseconds) removal of the released neurotransmitters. Several diseases are associated with improper neurotransmitter clearance. Recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy interfere with transport processes and lead to hallucinations, euphoric stimulation, addiction and extensive physiological and psychological problems.
NeuroTrans will focus on key NSS family members including the prokaryotic small amino acid transporter (LeuT), the dopamine transporter (DAT), and the GABA transporters (GAT1-3, BGT1). DAT is most prominently associated with reward and Parkinson’s disease, while GABA transporter deficiencies lead to epilepsy and seizures. Between 50 and 200 Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) appear each year on the illicit drug market. NPS are untested, neither for pharmacodynamic activity nor for toxicological effects, creating a huge burden for society. Thorough and rapid characterization of NPS is therefore a top priority, both for healthcare professionals and policy makers.