Mutant worm could help alcoholics

16th July, 2014 by Gabriel Stone

Scientists in the US have created a “James Bond” style mutant worm that is resistant to the intoxicating effects of alcohol, potentially revolutionising drug treatment for alcoholics.

alcoholicsThe study, which is published in The Journal of Neuroscience, saw the research team modify Caenorhabditis worms, which stop wriggling and laying eggs when they become drunk, making them particularly suitable for monitoring the effectiveness of the trial.

In order to create the mutation, the team of scientists modified a potassium channel in the cell membranes to make it insensitive to alcohol while still able to carry out its usual functions.

Commenting on the results, the article’s author Professor Jon Pierce-Shimomura from the University of Texas’ College of Natural Sciences and Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research, claimed: “This is the first example of altering a human alcohol target to prevent intoxication in an animal.”

As for the potential application of this research to humans, Pierce-Shimomura said: “Our findings provide exciting evidence that future pharmaceuticals might aim at this portion of the alcohol target to prevent problems in alcohol abuse disorders. However, it remains to be seen which aspects of these disorders would benefit.”

He also suggested “The research could even be used to develop a ‘James Bond’ drug someday, which would enable a spy to drink his opponent under the table, without getting drunk himself.”

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