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'Tipsy' Gene May Lead To Treatment For Alcoholism


Oh, just one glass for me!: image via vcreporter.comOh, just one glass for me!: image via vcreporter.comSome of us tend to stop drinking before we cross that line... when we are just feeling a bit 'tipsy,' rather than roaring drunk.  Girls who drank like that in college were known as 'cheap dates,' because the guys didn't have to ply them with alcohol to loosen them up!

Apparently, though, there is a gene responsible for this tipsy response to alcohol, and researchers studying it at the University of North Carolina (UNC) say that it's possible that the enzyme released by the gene, CYP2E1, could be mimicked by a drug to help at-risk persons reduce their alcohol consumption.

The study that led to this conclusion involved 200 pairs of student siblings; they did not have drinking problems, but had one alcohol-dependent parent. 

The students were given a mixture of grain alcohol and soda, the equivalent of about three drinks. They were then checked at regular intervals and asked to describe their feelings as drunk, sober, sleepy, or awake.  The responses were compared with the results of genetic information obtained from the students.

The students that felt more 'drunk,' corresponded to those whose alcohol was metabolized by the enzyme CYP2E1 which, the researchers found, is located on chromosome 10.  Those who could hold their liquor better, were less likely to trigger brain metabolism. (Most of the alcohol we consume is metabolized by the liver.)

Professor Kirk Wilhelmsen, who led the UNC study, admitted that there are many reasons why people drink, but one of the factors is hereditary (genetic).  Exploring the possibility of using a CYP2E1-like medication might be one way to keep some alcohol-prone people from addiction.

The study is available in the Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research Journal online, pre-publication edition.

BBC News