'Drunken' Gene Discovered by Scientists and Men Are More Alcoholics!

in biology, omics

A study identified the gene that may cause susceptibility to alcoholism. People with the gene are more likely to get drunk quickly. The gene, CYP2E1, provides the coded instructions for making an enzyme that breaks down alcohol. In another recent study reported in a science news publication says that men are more likely to get addicted as alcohol turns on dopamine more in the men than in the women. It will be interesting to test polymorphism (change in gene sequences) in CYPE1 among those who spike their dopamine following alcohol consumption. In the liver, approximately 95% of alcohol is metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase or CYP2E1. These enzymes are designed to deal with only endogenously produced alcohol, that means, when excess amount of alcohol is consumed, blood circulation will get flooded with alcohol. As cell membranes are highly permeable to alcohol, the alcohol will gush from blood stream to tissues. To make matters worse, there is no blood brain barrier for alcohol, which means that alcohol enters the brain unhindered! Once in the brain it messes up brain chemical messenger functions. In this study scientists found that 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the population possess a particular version of the gene that causes them to get drunk easily. The first few drinks during a night out will leave these individuals feeling more inebriated than their friends. They are therefore more likely to stop drinking earlier. Drugs that enhance the effect of CYP2E1 could in future be used to sensitise people to alcohol before an evening's drinking – or even sober them up when they have had one too many, said the researchers. Scientists in the US investigated the genetics of 237 college student siblings who had one alcohol-dependent parent but were not alcoholics themselves. They homed in on an end region of chromosome 10 where the CYP2E1 gene resides. Participants' response to drinking was linked to their genetic make-up. Students were given a mixture of alcohol and soft drinks that was equivalent to about three average alcoholic drinks. At regular intervals they were then asked whether they felt drunk, sober, sleepy or awake. Professor Kirk Wilhelmsen, the senior study author from the University of North Carolina, said: "We have found a gene that protects against alcoholism, and on top of that, has a very strong effect. "But alcoholism is a very complex disease, and there are lots of complicated reasons why people drink. This may be just one of the reasons." CYP2E1's effect on sobriety is probably due to the fact that it is not active in the liver, but the brain. It generates destructive molecules called free radicals, which can damage sensitive structures such as brain cells. "It turns out that a specific version of CYP2E1 makes people more sensitive to alcohol, and we are now exploring whether it is because it generates more of these free radicals," said Prof Wilhelmsen. The findings are published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. In another study published in the same journal, scientists found evidence that the brain's ability to become addicted to alcohol depends on genetic make-up. The research, conducted on mice, showed changes associated with addiction in animals lacking a key "feel good" gene. "This study shows that the effects of chronic alcohol consumption on brain chemistry are critically influenced by an individual's pre-existing genetic make-up," said the lead researcher Panayotis Thanos, from the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York The above report is partially adapted from The Telegraph

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