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Scientists discover presence of a gene that may prompt extreme drinking

By Jessica Rae Pulver-Adell,

Scientists in the UK (conducted by the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit)have discovered a gene mutation that causes mice to prefer alcohol over water. The study showed that mice without the mutation held little to no interest in alcohol when offered water. However, scientists observed that mice with a mutation in the gene Gabrb1 were prone to consume almost 85 percent of their daily fluid intake in liquids that contained alcohol.

"Alcohol addiction places a huge burden on the individual, their family, and wider society,” Professor Hugh Perry, chair of the MRC's Neurosciences and Mental Health Board, said in a statement, according to Medical Daily. “There's still a great deal we don't understand about how and why consumption progresses into addiction, but the results of this long-running project suggest that, in some individuals, there may be a genetic component. If further research confirms that a similar mechanism is present in humans, it could help us to identify those most at risk of developing an addiction, and ensure they receive the most effective treatment."

Alcohol-related fatalities contribute to 25,692 deaths annually- excluding accidents and homicides.

"It's amazing to think that a small change in the code for just one gene can have such profound effects on complex behaviours like alcohol consumption,” Dr. Quentin Anstee, consultant hepatologist at Newcastle University, said in the statement. "We are continuing our work to establish whether the gene has a similar influence in humans, though we know that in people alcoholism is much more complicated as environmental factors come into play. But there is the real potential for this to guide development of better treatments for alcoholism in the future."

“As the electrical signal from these receptors increases, so does the desire to drink to such an extent that mice will actually work to get the alcohol, for much longer than we would have expected,” Anstee said, according to Raw Story

Mice effected by the mutation were willing to work harder to gain access to alcohol, as compared to other mice.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

 

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