Discovery of a gene that helps control the desire to drink may lead to better treatment for alcoholism.
In a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers are saying they have isolated a gene that works with other genes in your genetic makeup to make you more likely to find alcohol irresistible, according to a report on nbcnews.com.
The gene, identified as beta-Klotho, actually works to make drinking alcohol less desirable to those who have the gene, but those lacking the gene are more likely to choose an alcoholic drink, says the research team.
Dr. David Mangelsdorf of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who was involved with the study, offered, “There was a clear variation in this one gene in the people that liked to drink more versus less.”
He continued by saying that around 42 percent of the subjects involved in the study, which looked at records of over 100,000 people of European descent, had the version of the gene that led them to consume less alcohol. Amazingly, the difference in the two genes was only a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP).
Manglesdorf said he hoped this new finding could lead to the discovery of a better treatment for alcoholism, as well as for people who simply drink too much. Currently, according to Manglesdorf, there is no drug available that will suppress the desire to drink alcohol.
Heavy alcohol consumption was said to cause as many as 3.3 million deaths in 2012, and about 23 percent of the estimated 140 million Americans who drink alcohol can be categorized as binge drinkers, identified as having four to five drinks in a row. Another six percent say they are heavy drinkers, consuming alcoholic beverages 4-5 times in a row more that five days each month.
The team also found the beta-Klotho works with other genes, FGF21 and FGF19, genes that were previously associated with preferences for alcohol and cravings for sweets. The team discovered earlier the FGF21 gene affects weight loss and possibly the body’s immune system.
In a statement released by the team, Mangelsdorf added, “This is a hormone with some remarkable pharmacologic effects. The current study suggests that the FGF21-beta-Klotho pathway regulates alcohol consumption in humans and seems to point to a mechanism that we might be able to influence in order to reduce alcohol intake.”