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

Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More