Slo' coach: ever wondered why you never see a drunk worm?
A brain protein that effects the reaction to alcohol has been discovered in roundworm. If a similar mechanism is at work in humans it could mean a drug for drunkeness and a treatment for alcoholism. It's not as far off as it might sound — all animals appear to be effected by alcohol in much the same way suggesting a similar mechanism and half of the 20,000 genes found in roundworm also appear in humans.
According to researchers at the University of California, a brain protein called the BK channel is 'central to the intoxicating effect of alcohol'. But the effect by the alcohol also appears related to a gene called slo 1 — worms without this gene were virtually unaffected by the drug.
'Alcohol has a diffuse effect,' said lead researcher Steven McIntire, 'and it certainly acts on other sites as well. But this is the first study to demonstrate that a single gene mutation can create such strong resistance (to alcohol).'
The relationship between the slo 1 gene and the BK channel could explain why certain people react to alcohol in a different ways. It could help the intoxicating effects of alcohol and alcoholism to be predicted and treated. However, it will not make any difference to the physical damage caused by alcohol. In other words, you may not be drunk but you'll still get liver disease.
Page created on December 29th, 2003
Page updated on December 21st, 2009