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Researchers Find Link Between Mutant Gene and Alcoholism

Posted in Research

New research may have found a connection between teenage binge drinking and a mutant gene. This addictive gene, known as RASGRF2, has been shown to increase the sensitivity toward habit-forming rewards in the brain.

Alcohol was one of the biggest triggers in the study on both mice and teenage boys, according to a recent medical article. The results elude to an increase in alcohol consumption in those 16-year-old boys with the RASGRF2. Those without the mutation did not drink as often.

If the brain is already wired to view alcohol as a reward, the those people will seek out an environment that will give them that sense of reward, according to Gunter Schumann, the lead scientist of the study with the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College-London. He said that the research provides a clearer idea of human behavior and how genes play a part in how we function.

The RASGRF2 plays a critical role in how the brain controls alcohol stimulation which releases dopamine. This nerve-signaling molecule, tips off the reward feeling. Therefore, those with the mutated gene receive an enhanced feeling of the reward when drinking alcohol. This would only encourage them to drink more heavily.

The study began with using mice as test subjects and found enough evidence to suggest the gene’s affects that it quickly moved on to teenage subjects. Using 663 boys, all age 14, researchers were able to further test their theories as binge drinking increased among youngsters in England.

For nearly 20 years, the statistics have remained the same, six out of every 10 youths binge drink. But in 2007, studies showed that not only were more teenagers drinking but they were consuming more alcohol per week.
Alcohol abuse in young people can cause serious health problems including poor brain development, antisocial behavior and risk taking. In the UK alone, roughly 5,000 teenagers are hospitalized for one alcohol-related reason or another.