Scientists at UCSFs Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center have identified a single brain protein that can account for most of the intoxicating effects of alcohol. The finding pinpoints perhaps the best target yet for a drug to block alcohols effect and potentially treat alcoholism, the scientists say.
The mechanisms by which alcohol acts on the brain are thought to be similar throughout the animal kingdom, since species from worms and fruit flies to mice and humans all become intoxicated at similar alcohol concentrations. But although studies have identified a number of genes that can partially influence how alcohol affects behavior, this is the first finding that a single gene and the brain protein it codes for - known as an ion channel - are responsible for the intoxicating effects of alcohol in a living organism, according to the researchers.
The discovery was made in a six-year research effort focusing on Caenorhabditis elegans, the roundworm widely studied because about half of its approximately 20,000 genes have counterparts in the human genome.
Wallace Ravven | EurekAlert!
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