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Weakness for drink could be in the genes

By Roger Highfield

A gene mutation that increases the likelihood of becoming drunk on just one drink has been discovered.

Scientists were studying rats but believe that tolerance levels to alcohol may be genetically wired in people too and could eventually help identify children and adults at higher risk of developing a drink problem.

Alcohol interferes with how brain cells communicate with one another, resulting in a lack of co-ordination, grogginess, impaired memory and loss of inhibitions associated with drunkenness.

Yet researchers have been unable to pinpoint how alcohol causes this disruption in the brain.

Now scientists at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA have deciphered how a naturally occurring gene mutation in rats' brains lowers the animals' tolerance to alcohol, leading to rapid and acute intoxication after the equivalent of one drink. The same effect is highly likely to be seen in people.

The study, published yesterday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, is the first to identify how the gene variation influences one of the main messenger chemicals in the brain.

One of the authors, Prof Richard Olsen, said: "If we understand the action of alcohol at the cellular and molecular level, it is helpful in treating the harmful effects that alcohol may have."

Original source: http://news.telegraph.co.uk

 

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