Mutated Gene Found to Control Consumption of Alcohol

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mouseA science article printed in the science journal, Nature Communications, possibly explains why some people consume large amounts of alcohol while others do not. In a study performed on mice, a consortium of researchers from five UK universities found that a mutation to the gene Gabrb1 resulted in mice having an overwhelming preference to drink alcohol over water. In comparison, normal mice had no interest in drinking alcohol and drank little if any when given the choice between diluted alcohol and water.

During the phase of the study in which the Gabrb1 was identified as the source of mutation that affected the mice’s desire to consume alcohol, it was found that those mice carrying either of two single base-pair point mutations in the gene preferred drinking alcohol that was about the strength of wine, over drinking water. In addition, the mice were willing to work in order to get the drink that contained alcohol, pushing a lever for an extended period of time, in contrast to normal mice that would not. These mice voluntarily drank enough alcohol in one hour to make them intoxicated and give them problems coordinating their movements.

Although the study results only show that the mutation to the Gabrb1 causes an increased alcoholic consumption in mice, and not humans, previous studies have shown that the GABA system in humans is involved in the control of alcohol intake. The study in mice showed that a particular subunit of GABAA receptor has the most significant effect and provides the direction that researchers will need to take when modifying the process used in mice, to man.

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