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Repurposing Existing Drugs for New Indications

Penn Nursing’s Heath Schmidt, a neuropharmacologist and director of the Laboratory of Neuropsychopharmacology, is part of a team of Penn researchers helping to lead the way in understanding how existing drugs can be repurposed to treat new and different issues.

Heath Schmidt, PhD, of Penn Nursing and Penn Medicine teamed up with Penn clinical researcher Rebecca Ashare to test galantamine’s ability to help smokers kick their habit. Galantamine, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor approved in 2001 for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, blocks an enzyme that degrades acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that’s been linked to cognition that also binds to some of the same neuronal receptors that mediate nicotine’s rewarding effects. “The idea is that if you can increase acetylcholine signaling in the brain, you could decrease nicotine-related behaviors such as tobacco smoking,” says Schmidt.

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