'Alcoholism gene' may be key to problem drinking
ALCOHOLISM could be in our DNA, experts have suggested, after a gene linked to excessive drinking was discovered by scientists.
A single mutation in the gene can scramble the chemical messages that inhibit drinking, compromising the body's ability to consume alcohol in moderation, researchers found.
Experiments on mice found that those with mutant copies of the Gabrb1 gene preferred drinking diluted alcohol over water, in contrast to those with normal genes.
The study, published in the 'Nature Communica-tions' journal, showed that the mice would drink so much alcohol that within one hour they would have trouble controlling their movements.
Although some humans drink excessively for a variety of reasons, the findings suggest that a few may be more genetically at risk of alcoholism, researchers said.
The scientists, from five UK universities, introduced several random mutations to the genetic code of mice before giving them a free choice between water and diluted alcohol.
They found that those with either of two mutations in Gabrb1 chose to consume almost 85pc of their daily fluids from the alcohol solution, while healthy mice drank little or no alcohol.
Those with the mutation were so keen to obtain the alcohol that they would push a lever to obtain it, even over long periods of time.
Dr Quentin Anstee, consultant hepatologist at Newcastle University and the 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." (© Daily Telegraph, London)