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Mutant Mouse Gene Examined for Human Alcohol Reactions

Posted in Alcoholism

Scientists often study animals to better understand the functions of the human body and how some substances can affect the way we live. This is especially true when trying to understand alcoholism and drug addiction and the impact both can have on an individual.

In a recent Science Daily release, the main focus was a study led by Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center researchers who found that a mutation in a mouse gene that also exists in humans could provide insight into the genetic roots of alcohol addiction.

In this study, mice with the mutations were significantly more sensitive to alcohol than their peers without the mutation. These mutated mice voluntarily consumed more alcohol than the normal mice when offered a choice between alcohol and water in standard conditions.

Researchers refer to the mutation as Lightweight and in previous studies of worms and flies; the mutation has been associated with an altered sensitivity to a range of anesthetics. The nickname is the result of a study that found when unc-79 mutant mice receive an injection of pure alcohol; they were knocked out for far longer than mice without the mutation.

The challenge here is that unc-79 is still not well understood and other research suggests that it could interact with a neuron channel known as NALCN to influence neuronal response to alcohol.

It is important to identify those factors that make humans more susceptible to alcoholism, although it is also difficult as there are multiple genes involved and each has its own effect that will contribute to the disease. This research aimed to determine whether unc-79 and the NALCN neuron channel were associated with human altered reactions to alcohol.