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 August 27, 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 August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) — A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths?

Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths?

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) — A new study found fewer deaths from prescription drug overdoses in states that have legalized medical marijuana. But experts disagree on the results. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Heart Group: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

Heart Group: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) — The American Heart Association's first policy statement on electronic cigarettes backs them as a last resort to help smokers quit and calls for more regulation to keep them away from youth. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Push For Later Start Times As School Year Kicks Off

Doctors Push For Later Start Times As School Year Kicks Off

Newsy (Aug. 25, 2014) — The American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest group pushing for middle schools and high schools to start later, for the sake of their kids. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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