Researchers Find Binge-Drinking Gene


It is well known that alcoholism can run in families. But it was never clear whether it was a genetic link, or just a cultural thing. Well, new research says it is genetic.

Researchers from the University of Maryland said they have identified a binge-drinking gene. They said the desire to drink excessively is connected to a gene that is linked to a protein in part of the brain known as the amygdala.

The amygdala -- the pleasure center of the brain -- is responsible for regulating the emotions and has been linked to alcohol addiction in the past.

The research found that when the protein, called TLR4, was artificially stimulated on lab rats, giving them the good feelings binge drinkers feel when drinking alcohol, the rats lost interest in alcohol for two weeks after the procedure.

Researcher Harry June said the protein could be a target for the development of drugs for alcohol dependence.

June said, "Gene therapy may offer beneficial alternatives to current psycho-social and pharmaco-therapeutic interventions but identification of the target genes is a clinical challenge."

Binge-drinking is defined as eight or more units of alcohol in one session for a man, and more than six units for a woman.

Studies have shown a large amount of alcohol over a short period is worse for your health than drinking little and often because it places a bigger strain on the liver.

The research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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