Drinking Study Reveals Compulsive Gene

     (CN) – Compulsive drinking can be linked to a genetic variant, according to a National Institutes of Health study published Monday.
     Mice carrying the Met68BDNF gene variant reportedly consumed excessive amounts of alcohol despite negative consequences in a study led by professor Dorit Ron of the University of California at San Francisco. The NIH study was funded through its National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
     The gene variant reduces the release of a brain protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, according to the study. Earlier this year, NIAAA scientists discovered that adolescent binge drinking was linked to lower levels of BDNF.
     The risk of developing schizophrenia and depression also increases when BDNF levels are reduced, according to the NIH. The human form of the gene variant is called Met66BDNF.
     “By understanding the genetic underpinnings of alcohol use disorder, we will better be able to develop targeted treatment and prevention strategies,” said NIAAA Director Dr. George Koob.
     Even when the alcohol was treated with a bitter-tasting compound, the mice carrying the genetic variant couldn’t resist drinking it, the study found.
     “This suggests Met68BDNF carriers compulsively drink alcohol despite aversive consequences,” according to an NIH press release. Mice’s alcohol consumption reportedly dropped to moderate levels when increased levels of BDNF were introduced into their brains.
     Researchers were also able to use a pharmaceutical compound that mimics the effects of BDNF to stop the mice’s compulsive drinking.
     “This compound may have potential as a therapeutic for humans,” the NIH press release states. “It appears to reduce compulsive alcohol drinking without a generalized effect on motivation.”

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