Eduardo Butelman, Ph.D.Research Associate Professor
Biology of Addictive Diseases
Dr. Butelman is interested in quantitatively defining the in vivo effects of neuropeptides and their synthetic analogs at the opioid receptor system. His aim is to open the door for the development of new pharmacotherapeutic treatments for opiate and cocaine addiction based on a better understanding of their etiology.
Dr. Butelman's earlier work focused on quantifying in vivo effects of the neuropeptide dynorphin — an unstable compound that acts at the opioid receptor — to countermodulate the rewarding effects of drugs of abuse. Using the hormone prolactin as a biomarker for dynorphin levels, Dr. Butelman defined the maximum and minimum pharmacological efficacy of this endogenous agonist at the opioid receptor system, which is thought to be involved in priming a state of heightened vulnerability to relapse.
More recently, Dr. Butelman has focused on characterizing the basic pharmacology of salvinorin A, a plant-derived hallucinogenic compound that is chemically unrelated to all known opioid ligands. In 2004, Dr. Butelman and his colleagues were the first to confirm in vivo that salvinorin A is a receptor agonist, consistent with a prominent modulation by the receptor system of higher perceptual functions. Dr. Butelman also showed that salvinorin A, like dynorphin, increases prolactin levels, which could then be used as biomarkers for salvinorin A activity at opioid receptors, and that a receptor antagonist could prevent this prolactin surge. In a drug discrimination paradigm, Dr. Butelman showed that subjects did not differentiate the interoceptive effects of salvinorin A from those of a known synthetic agonist. He further showed that a receptor antagonist treatment administered before salvinorin A could prevent a behavioral effect of salvinorin A, and also reverse an ongoing effect. This finding indicates that the behavioral effects of salvinorin A are thus completely separate from known "classic" hallucinogens.
Dr. Butelman received his Ph.D. in psychology from University College London in the United Kingdom in 1990. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in pharmacology at the University of Michigan, where he was appointed research investigator in 1992. Dr. Butelman joined Rockefeller University as a research associate in Mary Jeanne Kreek's laboratory in 1996. He was promoted to research assistant professor in 2001 and to research associate professor in 2006.