A liking for alcohol is genetic

Yet another paper which purports to show that bad behaviour is due to genetic compulsions. In this case a faulty gene is supposed to cause compulsive consumption of alcohol. If all bad behaviour can be shown to be due to genetic compulsions, it follows that nobody can be held accountable for their behaviour.

The press release is from Newcastle University but the researchers come from five universities. It is a 10 year project funded by the Medical Research Council to study genetic effects on alcohol dependence. “.. we don’t understand about how and why consumption progresses into addiction, but the results of this long-running project suggest that, in some individuals, there may be a genetic component”  says Professor Hugh Perry (MRC), “…. it could help us to identify those most at risk of developing an addiction and ensure they receive the most effective treatment.”

Genetic screening of the foetus and abortion of the alcoholicly inclined perhaps! Prevention being better than an impossible cure.

Quentin M. Anstee, Susanne Knapp, Edward P. Maguire, Alastair M. Hosie, Philip Thomas, Martin Mortensen, Rohan Bhome, Alonso Martinez, Sophie E. Walker, Claire I. Dixon, Kush Ruparelia, Sara Montagnese, Yu-Ting Kuo, Amy Herlihy, Jimmy D. Bell, Iain Robinson, Irene Guerrini, Andrew McQuillin, Elizabeth M.C. Fisher, Mark A. Ungless, Hugh M.D. Gurling, Marsha Y. Morgan, Steve D.M. Brown, David N. Stephens, Delia Belelli, Jeremy J. Lambert, Trevor G. Smart, Howard C. ThomasMutations in the Gabrb1 gene promote alcohol consumption through increased tonic inhibitionNature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI:10.1038/ncomms3816

Newcastle University Press Release

Researchers have discovered a gene that regulates alcohol consumption and when faulty can cause excessive drinking. They have also identified the mechanism underlying this phenomenon.

The study showed that normal mice show no interest in alcohol and drink little or no alcohol when offered a free choice between a bottle of water and a bottle of diluted alcohol.

However, mice with a genetic mutation to the gene Gabrb1 overwhelmingly preferred drinking alcohol over water, choosing to consume almost 85% of their daily fluid as drinks containing alcohol – about the strength of wine.

The consortium of researchers from five UK universities – Newcastle University, Imperial College London,  Sussex University, University College London and University of Dundee – and the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit at Harwell, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome Trust and ERAB, publish their findings today in Nature Communications.

Dr Quentin Anstee, Consultant Hepatologist at Newcastle University, joint lead author said: “It’s amazing to think that a small change in the code for just one gene can have such profound effects on complex behaviours like alcohol consumption.

“We are continuing our work to establish whether the gene has a similar influence in humans, though we know that in people alcoholism is much more complicated as environmental factors come into play. But there is the real potential for this to guide development of better treatments for alcoholism in the future.”

…. a team led by Professor Howard Thomas from Imperial College London introduced subtle mutations into the genetic code at random throughout the genome and tested mice for alcohol preference. This led the researchers to identify the gene Gabrb1 which changes alcohol preference so strongly that mice carrying either of two single base-pair point mutations in this gene preferred drinking alcohol (10% ethanol v/v – about the strength of wine), over water.

The group showed that mice carrying this mutation were willing to work to obtain the alcohol-containing drink by pushing a lever and, unlike normal mice, continued to do so even over long periods. They would voluntarily consume sufficient alcohol in an hour to become intoxicated and even have difficulty in coordinating their movements.

So my preference for scotch rather than Newcastle Brown Ale is probably also genetic!.

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