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Drugs & Health Blog

Leads for Treating Methamphetamine Addiction

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Yamini Naidu, Addiction Science Award Winner

My name is Yamini Naidu and I am a sophomore at Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton, Oregon. I have been working on a science project about Methamphetamine (METH) addiction for the past two years, beginning in the summer of 2009. To those who read this blog, I wanted to share my research experience on METH so you could learn about the great potential for biochemistry that exists in the world of drugs and addiction. I received guidance for this project from the Oregon Health and Science University, the Portland American Chemical Society, and my high school chemistry and biology teachers. My research focuses on developing a treatment for METH addiction through computer modeling.

I was inspired to do this science project because I have had an interest in the brain and in neurology ever since my uncle passed away from stroke as a complication of heart disease. I was intrigued by the fact that METH can cause strokes in young abusers by a process still unknown to science. I hope that my research will not only help in the treatment of METH addiction but also in the treatment of stroke. At present, there is no effective treatment for controlling METH craving during withdrawal and abstinence. The goal of my research is to find or create a small molecule that can potentially block METH from binding to a special activation site (called Site I). Site I is located on a receptor protein in the brain called hTAAR1 (human Trace Amine-Associated Receptor 1). METH normally binds to this receptor like a key fits a lock – only a key with that shape can fit in the TAAR1 lock.

While experimenting with computer models, I discovered two new activation sites (which I call Sites II and III) on the receptor protein. I predicted that certain chemicals that prefer to bind to these new sites can change the shape of the receptor, making it impossible for METH to stick. If the lock changes, the old key can’t fit! So, guided by the computer-generated 3D structures of the two new TAAR1 binding sites, I designed new compounds and verified by computer that they would match the shape of the new activation sites. These new compounds may be preferred over others because their chemical structures and shape give them a stronger potential to bind to the receptor. The Oregon Health and Science University has filed a patent application on my discovery of the two binding sites and my invention of the novel compounds. My future goals are to synthesize and evaluate the compounds that I designed as potential new medication leads in laboratory trials and eventually in human trials.

hTAAR1 Receptor Protein

I first presented my project at the regional Central Western Oregon Science Expo. Several expos and science fairs later, I was selected by Intel NWSE to represent the state of Oregon at ISEF as a finalist, where I competed with 1,500 high school student finalists from around the country and world. At ISEF, I was awarded the First Place Award of $3,000 in the biochemistry category. In addition, I was invited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to give a talk on my research project in Washington, DC, this August. I have received recognition and rewards from many different organizations for my research, and I am happy now to share my great experience with more people.



Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


i dont even know you but i must say as an older adult myself, you are very bright and talented youg lady and i hope that you comoe up with a lot of research concerning alot of things. i just wanted to thank you for your hard work and never give up because its people like yourself that help makes this world a much better place to live in.

I think its great you are putting your passion to work, to find ways to help people addicted to meth, more people on meth would most likely get off the drug if there wasn't such a hard come down. I hope some one can find that alternative. And hope you don't give up. Many thanks for your efforts.

You are one incredible young lady. I have recently gotten involved with addiction recovery simply because I am a recovering addict. I spent so much time in frustration. I hated what I was doing and couldn't quit. I have a deep appreciation for people like yourself who are working to help people in difficult situations. There are so many types of addiction and they are all similar in the brain. They all alter the brain in certain ways. The new addiction sweeping the globe is [commercial link removed, per guidelines]. It alters 5 parts of the brain similar to what meth does but there are some major differences of course like the fact that pornography or sex increases dopamine levels %100 while METH raises it %1100.

Thanks so much for all your efforts, god bless you!
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This is a great and truly inspirational! A lot of people your age could learn a valuable lesson from this. Keep up the good work and continue to make a difference.

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Thanks for the post.Everyone should read it.It can inspire you.

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God Bless You...

God Bless you... and thank you...

My heartfelt congratulations and best wishes for your future!
Keep up the great work and always remember to look into the eyes of those being
hurt by such addictions. It will keep your heart grounded and your mind soaring and motivated to
continue the work to help alleviate their pain. I am very proud of you.

Let's all take time to remember it's National Alcohol and Drug addiction Recovery this month (every Sept). Substance abuse addictions are spiraling out of control these days especially now with prescription drug dependencies. It's unfortunate that many rehab centers focus only on getting a person off their substance. There are facilities out there, though, that taper an individual off their addiction first while teaching them new and healthy habits such as weight training, martial arts, healthy eating habits, and learning new skills. [commercial link removed, per guidelines]

You are truly inspired and great. May you get success in your project!

Excellent work and keep it up. Labs working in this space should invite you work with them on other similar efforts. Hope they see the potential you have.

Congratulation and wow!!! Great job.

This is a great and informational. A lot of people your age could learn a valuable lesson from this. Keep up the good work and continue to make a difference.

Congrats! Yamini,

I am very proud and an ecstatic uncle, hats of off to creative intelligence, you are going places, it achievemnet are amazing, and your grand parents would been very very proud. I wish you very best and the world is a better place with you.

Great Article

God bless you Yamini ! Great work. Can understand how much hardwork you have put in this. Really very inspirational for every one.

Keep it up and Very best of luck for you for all your future endeavours.

Great Job Yamini!!
I am not familiar in the medical stream but what you did will lead a path to greater medical researches.

GOOOOOO YALIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOHOO YALE!!!!!!!!!!