News / Science & Technology

Mutant Worm Could Help Fight Alcoholism

A mutant form of the Caenorhabditis elegans worm proved immune to the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
A mutant form of the Caenorhabditis elegans worm proved immune to the intoxicating effects of alcohol.

Related Articles

Sex, Drug Addicts Have Similar Brain Responses

Depictions of pornographic behavior trigger brain activity similar to what is seen in brain of drug addicts, according to researchers

The key to beating alcoholism may lie in mutant worms, new research suggests.
 
By inserting a “modified human alcohol target” into the worms, scientists at the University of Texas in Austin made the worms immune to the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
 
An alcohol target is a neuronal molecule that binds alcohol.
 
"This is the first example of altering a human alcohol target to prevent intoxication in an animal," said corresponding author, Jon Pierce-Shimomura, assistant professor in the university's College of Natural Sciences and Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research in a statement.
 
Pierce-Shimomura said the results could lead to new drugs to combat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
 
The target is a neuronal channel called the BK channel, which regulates the activity of neurons, blood vessels, the respiratory tract and the bladder.
 
The BK channel “puts the brakes on neural activity,” said Pierce-Shimomura.
 
However, when a person consumes alcohol, the channel releases more potassium than normal, in effect “slamming the brakes,” he said.

This leads to the sluggish thinking and movement associated with alcohol intoxication.
 
"We got pretty lucky and found a way to make the channel insensitive to alcohol without affecting its normal function," Pierce-Shimomura said.
 
The alcohol-insensitive mutation does not disrupt the normal functions of the BK channel.
 
"Our findings provide exciting evidence that future pharmaceuticals might aim at this portion of the alcohol target to prevent problems in alcohol abuse disorders," says Pierce-Shimomura. "However, it remains to be seen which aspects of these disorders would benefit."
 
Targeting the effects of alcohol is more tricky than other drugs, like cocaine, which “have a specific target in the nervous system.”  Alcohol’s effects on the body are “complex and have many targets across the brain” and include many facets such as tolerance to alcohol, craving and withdrawal, all of which could be influenced by different targets in the brain.
 
For the study, researchers used a type of worm called Caenorhabditis elegans, which “models intoxication well.” When given alcohol, the worms crawl more slowly and wriggle less from side to side, researchers said.
 
The limitation of the worms are they are not suited to studying other aspects of alcohol addiction such as cravings. For that researchers plan to use mice, said Pierce-Shimomura.
 
On a futuristic note, he said the research could one day lead to a “James Bond” drug that would allow a spy, for example, to drink his foe under that table without succumbing to alcohol’s effects. That kind of drug, researchers say could be useful for alcoholics because it could counter the “intoxicating and potentially addicting effects of alcohol.”
 
The study was published this week in The Journal of Neuroscience.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid