"This is one of the most exciting findings we have had in many years," John Huguenard, professor of neurology and neurological sciences and the study's senior author, said in a press release. "Our results show for the first time that a nucleus deep in the middle of the brain generates a small protein product, or peptide, that acts just like benzodiazepines."
For years, scientists have known DBI but under the name ACBP, and is found in every cell in the body. However, it wasn't until the recent study, published in the journal Neuron, that scientists were aware of its particular role in the brain.
"In this circuit, DBI or one of its peptide fragments acts just like Valium biochemically and produces the same neurological effect," Huguenard said.
The way it works, the authors said, is DBI binds to receptors that sit on nerve-cell surfaces and are responsive to the small but key neurotransmitter GABA.