Discovered biological cause responsible for alcohol dependence paved the way for new strat
Biological cause responsible for alcohol addiction discovered: paving the way for new strategies
A new study published Tuesday in Molecular Psychiatry provides novel details on the mechanism involved in “alcohol-addiction,” or alcohol dependence. Research has identified an enzyme that “shuts down” in nerve cells in the frontal lobe when alcohol addiction develops and could pave the way for the development of new treatments against alcoholism.
The discovery is the result of a large, multi-year research study conducted by Linköping University in Sweden. According to what is explained in the article, the reduction in the’activity of an enzyme involved in communication between neurons in the prefrontal cortex would be responsible for alcohol addiction, thus discovering that it is a biological cause that causes alcoholism, also explaining the difficulty or even inability experienced by alcoholics to break free from their addiction. Experts have come to find that it first induced alcohol dependence in rats by exposing them 14 hours a day to alcohol vapors and, for seven weeks.
They then took these same rats off alcohol for three weeks observing that these rodents became alcoholics because it showed different symptoms of addiction, such as anxious behavior and increasing alcohol consumption when it became available. Estelle Barbier, a researcher at the Center for Social and Affective Neuroscience de l’Université Linköping en Suède, recently found that in these “abstinent” rats after three weeks of deprivation, a decrease in the’expression of the Prdm2 enzyme in the brain, particularly in the prefrontal cortex.
” “The function of this enzyme is to add a methyl group to histones, which are proteins found in the DNA core of genes. This so-called epigenetic enzyme helps regulate the’expression of genes, in the case of genes involved in neurotransmission and that promotes the release of neurotransmittersin the synapse (space between neurons). A reduction in Prdm2’activity leads to a decrease in the expression of these genes and thus a likely decrease in neurotransmission“, explained Barbier and her colleagues then added quinine to the alcohol solution served to rats in order to make it very bitter, even repulsive to the rats.
The rodents however were exposed to alcohol by continuing to drink alcohol despite its negative property, unlike normal rats who were disinterested in this contaminated drink.
Such compulsive behavior, where rats so need to feel the psychostimulant effects of alcohol, they consume it even if it doesn’t taste good, confirming that the rats were still slaves to their addictions. “Such compulsive behavior will drive alcoholics to continue drinking despite being aware that they will lose their jobs and their families, or cause car accidents,” the molecular biologist further explained. He recalled that one of the parts of the brain that controls compulsive, impulsive behavior and decision making is the prefrontal cortex. “However, it is precisely in this area of the brain that we found the decrease in the enzyme,” “he further explained. There are just drugs that have been approved by the FDA and are currently being used in cancer research that could be a possible treatment pathway.
There’s a danger, however, that they may cause side effects. The study was conducted entirely in the rat. Although alcoholism represents a complex addiction, in which social and psychological factors also intervene, comments Giovanni D’Agata, president of the “Sportello dei Diritti,” having identified the enzyme so strongly associated with alcohol consumption, the researchers comment, paves the way for research into new anti-alcohol strategies.
In any case, awareness, is the most important element to heal, more than any medicine, although the fight against this phenomenon, no less widespread in Our country than in other Europeans, for which our association has always been in the forefront, must be tackled at the grassroots and with prevention by the state, as has been done for years against smoking.