Hangover Gene May Help Explain Alcoholism
Scientists have discovered tolerance for alcohol may be attributable to the “hangover gene.”
‘Hangover’ Gene Holds Clues to Alcoholism (HealthDay News)
Hard-drinking fruit flies have helped U.S. and German scientists uncover a gene that may shed light on humans’ tolerance to alcohol. The gene — named hangover by its discoverers — is part of a genetic pathway that enables the flies to deal with increasing amounts of alcohol, according to researchers. They also believe this mechanism can lead to alcohol dependence and addiction.
The finding may be important because “identifying the genes you inherit that relate to your tolerance to alcohol helps us understand how genes set you up for a vulnerability to alcoholism,” said Dr. James Garbutt, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina.
Garbutt was not involved in the study, which was led by Ulrike Heberlein, an associate professor of anatomy at the University of California at San Francisco. Her team’s report appears in the Aug. 11 issue of Nature. In their experiments, Heberlein’s group found that flies without the hangover gene didn’t develop a tolerance to alcohol when exposed to increased amounts of ethanol (alcohol) vapor.
In addition, the team found that the flies missing this gene also have poor responses to other stresses, such as higher temperatures. This suggests that the hangover gene might also play a role in dealing with stressful conditions, the researchers report.
One would think this gene would have shown up in studies of fraternity pledges before it was noted in fruit flies.