Research Shows How Alcohol May Affect the Body

Three growth factor compounds are key to the link, experts say

TUESDAY, Jan. 24, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Three naturally occurring growth factor chemicals may play a vital role in helping scientists better understand alcohol's effects in the body.

Research into the three growth factors -- insulin, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) -- was first presented at the June 2005 annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism. The symposium proceedings now appear in the February issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Growth factors are proteins that are involved in the development of nerve cells and are also important for keeping cells alive," symposium co-chair Dorit Ron, associate professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a prepared statement.

"The growth factors covered in this symposium -- insulin, BDNF and GDNF -- appear to be able to regulate alcohol's effects independent of their role in cell survival," Ron said.

Some of the research presented at the symposium included:

  • Genetic manipulation of fruit flies demonstrated that the insulin pathway controls sensitivity to the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
  • Research in mice found that low concentrations of alcohol increase the expression of BDNF in the brain in order to regulate alcohol consumption.
  • Increases in GDNF expression in the ventral tegmental area of the brain appeared to reduce rats' self-administration of alcohol.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Jan. 24, 2006
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