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Mutation may partly EXPLAIN alcohol tolerance

Mutation may partly EXPLAIN alcohol tolerance

A genetic mutation has been identified that affects alcohol tolerance in animals and may partly EXPLAIN why some people get drunk off a beer while others need a six pack. Besides helping to EXPLAIN such differences, the finding could lead to better treatments for alcohol poisoning and addiction. Alcohol interferes with how brain cells communicate, but exactly how it causes this disruption is somewhat of a mystery.

Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles have now shown that a naturally occurring gene mutation in rats' brains lowers their tolerance to alcohol and causes them to get drunk off the equivalent of one drink.

The mutation alters brain chemical targets called GABA receptors, making them more responsive to very low levels of alcohol. Alcohol enhances the receptors' influence on brain cells, slowing the cells' activity and ability to communicate. Because the mutation occurs naturally, the findings suggest that alcohol tolerance is genetically influenced in people.

The research could lead to the identification of children and adults at risk of alcohol dependency, and hasten the development of drugs that target alcohol-sensitive GABA receptors to fight alcohol poisoning and addiction. At present moment drug Piracetam is approved in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, alcoholism.

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