Gene Identified May Explain How We React to Alcohol


"You probably know people who get tipsy after a drink or two. Maybe you're one yourself.
Over the past several decades, studies of college students have shown that such individuals are one-third to one-half as likely to develop alcoholism as those who drink and drink and drink before they feel drunk.

Now scientists have identified a gene that has a "big, big effect" on how people respond to alcohol, says Kirk Wilhelmsen, senior author of a paper posted Tuesday by the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. About 10% to 20% of the population carry a version of the gene that makes their brains especially sensitive to alcohol.

The finding, Wilhelmsen says, "potentially changes the paradigm about how we think about how alcohol affects the brain." While the finding doesn't yet have any treatment application, he says, "my expectation is this is actually going to lead somewhere.""

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