Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Does Gene Variant Make Women More Prone To Alcoholism?

Date:
July 9, 2008
Source:
University of Bonn
Summary:
A particular gene variant might make women more susceptible to alcoholism. According to new research, a gene in the endorphin metabolism is altered in a typical fashion more often in women alcoholics than in healthy women.

A particular gene variant might make women more susceptible to alcoholism. At least, a study carried out by the Universities of Bonn and Sweden's Karolinska Institute makes this a plausible conclusion. Accord-ing to this, a gene in the endorphin metabolism is altered in a typical fashion more often in women alcoholics than in healthy women. In mice too, endorphins seem to play an important role in the amount of alcohol consumed, particularly among females. 

Endorphins are known as 'happiness' hormones. They activate what is known as the reward system in the brain and thereby ensure a good mood. This could be the case after jogging (experts talk about 'Runner's High'), after a bar of chocolate or also after a glass of beer or wine. The body endeavours to repeat this high, in the worst case ending in addiction.

Without these 'happiness' hormones you should be going easy on the alcohol, the theory also says. Researchers have tested this hypothesis. For this they examined mice that could not produce any endorphins due to a genetic mutation. The laboratory mice had the choice of quenching their thirst with pure water or an ethanol solution. 'Overall, mice without endorphins drank less alcohol than their relatives with endorphins,' Dr. Ildikó Rácz from the Bonn Institute of Molecular Psychiatry explains. She led the study together with her colleague Britta Schürmann and the director of the institute, Professor Dr. Andreas Zimmer.

The endorphin effect was particularly marked in female mice. Normally these tend to hit the bottle more than males. 'But without endorphins, the decrease in their desire for alcohol was particularly drastic.' Dr Rácz adds. By contrast, in males the absence of the endorphins made less difference.

From mice to humans

Then the scientists scrutinised genes which are important in the human endorphin metabolism. For this they analysed blood samples of just short of a total of 500 female and male alcoholics for peculiarities. Successfully. 'We were able to show that two genetic changes in the genes of female alcoholics occurred significantly more frequently than in healthy women,' is how Dr Rácz sums up the results. 'We don't know what the exact effect of these changes is.' By contrast, the scientists did not find any changes that indicated a contribution of endorphins in male alcoholics.

Women with a particular genetic make-up could therefore be at greater risk of becoming dependent on alcohol. 'Today we estimate the influence of the genes in this disease to be at least 50 per cent,' Ildikó Rácz explains. However, she warns against exaggerating the results. 'We can only evaluate how large the influence of the genetic mutations we found really is after carrying out further research.'

At least it seems to be a bit clearer now that endorphins really do play a role in the development of ethanol addiction. Animal experiments provided more contradictory answers to this question, probably also because alcohol consumption is in fact likewise dependent on environmental influences and therefore on the conditions the experiments were carried out under. As Ildikó Rácz says: 'However, our research clearly assigns a fundamental role to endorphins.'

The scientists discuss their results in the current issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry (doi:10.1016/j.biospych.2008.05.008).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Bonn. "Does Gene Variant Make Women More Prone To Alcoholism?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080708094212.htm>.
University of Bonn. (2008, July 9). Does Gene Variant Make Women More Prone To Alcoholism?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080708094212.htm
University of Bonn. "Does Gene Variant Make Women More Prone To Alcoholism?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080708094212.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — A new study says children born less than one year and more than five years after a sibling can have an increased risk for autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping School Violence

Stopping School Violence

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) — A trauma doctor steps out of the hospital and into the classroom to teach kids how to calmly solve conflicts, avoiding a trip to the ER. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) — A tiny cyst in the brain that can cause debilitating symptoms like chronic headaches and insomnia, and the doctor who performs the delicate surgery to remove them. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Burning Away Brain Tumors

Burning Away Brain Tumors

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) — Doctors are 'cooking' brain tumors. Hear how this new laser-heat procedure cuts down on recovery time. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins