A team of scientists from here in the UK have found further evidence that there is a genetic component to alcoholism. Researchers at five different universities are carrying out this work, and they have published some of their results recently in the Nature Communications journal. The scientists have discovered a gene that appears to be linked to alcoholism.
Proof of a Genetic Link for Alcoholism
The British researchers have learned that a mutant version of the Gabrb1 gene seems to trigger heavy alcohol drinking in mice. It appears that because this gene is mutated, normal triggers from the brain that would discourage this do not arise. It was found that mice that had this mutated gene tended to prefer alcohol to water when they were given the choice. In fact, the mice that had this gene had such a taste for the alcoholic beverage that they consumed it until they became visibly intoxicated. Over all, those who had the mutated Gabrb1 drank 85 per cent more than those mice that did not.
The fact that such a small change to the genetic code of mice could have such a noticeable impact on the behaviour of these rodents is remarkable. It could be that the genes that trigger this behaviour in humans also involve some type of simple mutation. More work is needed to determine if the same gene could be related to alcoholism in humans, but it is almost certain that things will be more complicated when it comes to people; and the researchers have also been quick to acknowledge this.
Importance of Genetics in Alcoholism
It is almost certain that genetics plays a part in alcoholism, but this does not mean that the cure for the condition is likely to come from research of this type, although it could lead to some effective treatments. The reality is that alcoholism is a very complex condition and certainly includes environmental factors as well as genetic. This is obvious from studies involving identical twins where only one of them develops alcohol problems. The most likely scenario is that having certain genes puts people at more risk of becoming an alcoholic, but things in their environment can actually trigger the event.
It is now generally agreed that practically anyone can develop a serious alcohol problem if the conditions are right. This would mean that even those people who do not have an alcoholic gene are still susceptible to the problem. Some individuals begin to abuse alcohol when problems arise in their life; it could also be the case that certain people slip into alcoholism after spending a lot of time around heavy drinkers. It might also be the case that lack of the alcoholic gene could mean that many are more resistant to developing alcoholism rather than them being immune to it.
Benefits of Understanding the Genetic Components of Alcoholism
Understanding the genetic component of alcoholism is very important research because the more knowledge there is about this condition, the easier it would come to preventing and treating it. There may come a time when it is possible to predict who is most likely to develop this problem, meaning these individuals would be better able to avoid developing the condition – they say that forewarned is forearmed. Maybe this research could lead to actual treatments that could be used to help people break away from addiction and remain sober long term. Only time will tell.