By Jeremy Craig
James Doherty is working to find better ways to treat those addicted to drugs.
A graduate student in the laboratory of Kyle Frantz, associate professor of neuroscience, Doherty spends his days working at the university’s lab facilities in Kell Hall to model adolescent drug use in rats, specifically opiates like morphine and heroin.
“What we’re trying to figure out is whether there are long-term consequences of using drugs during the adolescent period,” Doherty said.
Interestingly, the most significant finding of the lab’s work is that it seems that rats which start taking drugs during adolescents might be resistant to some of the long-term effects of drugs, compared to initiation during adulthood.
“It is possible that in our rat model, the adolescent rat brain may offer some sort of neuroprotection against future relapse,” he said.
While lab work consumes much of his time — so much that he can spend up to 10 hours in the lab, arriving and leaving in the dark — he finds time to get out of the windowless lab and into the sun.
Doherty is an avid cyclist, riding his bike from his home in Little Five Points to work and sometimes from his home to Stone Mountain and back, and swims using the Student Recreation Center, not to mention playing in team sports.
This training has led him to compete in his first triathlon last year, an experience which tested his endurance.
“You stand on the shore on a lake with all of those other people, and think ‘what am I doing?’” he said. “But once you get past the first little bit of swimming, and you get on your own, it’s really just about challenging yourself.”