A new approach research by Jon Pierce-Shimomura, assistant professor in the University of Texas’ College of Natural Sciences and Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research, has designed “mutant worms” that do not get intoxicated and says that these worms could offer a new way to treating alcoholism. The “human alcohol target” is changed in them. An alcohol target is any nerve cell that binds with alcohol.
The scientists modified a potassium channel found in the molecule membranes called “BK Channel” in the worm which made it insensitive to alcohol but allowed it to carry out it’s regular activities like neuron regulation and blood vessel monitoring. This modification was discovered by lead author Scott Davies says that it can be induced into mice which will pave way for the ultimate treatment of humans for the addiction.
Professor Shimomura said: “This is the first example of altering a human alcohol target to prevent intoxication in an animal. We got pretty lucky and found a way to make the channel insensitive to alcohol without affecting its normal function.”
“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.”
The worms used in the study are referred to as “Caenorhabditis elegans.” Alcohol addiction treatment has been a tricky task for doctors and scientists, unlike drugs like Cocaine, as alcohol targets several areas in the brain. The study is published in The Journal of Neuroscience.