Can genetic mutation trigger alcoholism?

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Ever wondered why some people have this urge to binge mindlessly! Alcoholism and the odds of developing a drinking problem could all be due to our DNA, suggests a new research.

According to experts, a particular gene mutation could explain why some individuals drink excessively while others consume sensible amounts of liquor.

Researchers delving into the link between genetics and alcoholism found a gene that regulates alcohol consumption. The study found when this gene becomes faulty, it triggers excessive drinking.

Experts from the Imperial College London, Newcastle University, Sussex University, University College London, the University of Dundee and the Medical Research Council Mammalian Genetics Unit (MGU) at Harwell have discovered a gene mutation called Gabrb1 which caused laboratory mice to become alcohol addicts.

Details of animal study
To check whether Gabrb1 played a role in fueling alcohol addiction, the researchers conducted an animal study. They randomly introduced mutations to Gabrb 1 in laboratory mice to monitor their alcohol preference. As a part of the study, the animals were offered diluted alcohol and water and given the option to choose which one they wanted to drink.

It was noted that rodents with the mutated gene were more inclined to avoid water and drink alcohol instead. However, those with the normal gene showed a preference for water. Mice with specific gene mutation even performed a task (pushing a lever) to get access to more alcohol and drank excessively, so much so that some became intoxicated within an hour.

Dr. Quentin Anstee, Consultant Hepatologist at Newcastle University and joint lead author said, “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.

“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.

The study was published in Nature Communications.

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