U of A pharmacology professor William Colmers’ research focuses on hormones that regulate fight-or-flight response. Photo by: Melissa Fabrizio
University of Alberta professor of pharmacology William Colmers and his team have identified a possible new target for drugs that can reduce anxiety symptoms.
They studied the stress hormone—the peptide corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)—and neuropeptide-Y (NPY), an anti-stress hormone, in animals.
The team focused on activity in the amygdala, a stress-sensitive part of the brain, and identified the exact mechanism that elicits the reversing of stress responses.
CRH and NPY both affect the same ion channel in the nerve cell’s membrane. Activity in the output neurons of the amygdala signals fear or danger. By blocking this ion channel, NPY slows down the firing of these neurons, inhibiting anxiety.
When the team stopped the nerve cells from making this ion channel, the anxiety-reducing effects lasted up to eight weeks in animals.
The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and was a collaboration with Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago.