Immune cells govern response to alcohol

September 30th, 2011 - 1:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 30 (IANS) Your immune cells could be governing your response to alcohol — a finding that could help reduce alcohol dependence.

Mark Hutchinson, research fellow at the University of Adelaide School of Medical Sciences, said his team has come up with evidence that an immune response in the brain was involved in responses to alcohol.

This immune response lies behind alcohol-related behavioural changes, such as difficulty in walking and talking, the British Journal of Pharmacology reports.

“Alcohol is consumed annually by two billion people worldwide with its abuse posing a significant health and social problem,” said Hutchinson, who led the study. “Over 76 million people are diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder.”

“This work has significant implications for our understanding of the way alcohol affects us… It could lead to a way of detecting people who are at greater risk of developing brain damage after long-term drinking,” said Hutchinson, according to an Adelaide statement.

Researchers studied the effects of giving alcohol to genetically altered mice. “The results showed that blocking a part of the immune system, either with the drug or genetically, reduced the effects of alcohol,” Hutchinson said.

He believes similar treatment could work in humans. “Medications targeting this specific receptor — toll-like receptor 4 — may prove beneficial in treating alcohol dependence and acute overdoses,” Hutchinson said.

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