End to desire for alcohol? Researchers find gene that might limit desire to drink alcohol

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U.S. and European researchers have recently found in their study a gene that might help suppress people’s desire to drink alcohol.

This particular gene, which is called beta-Klotho, seems to act as a brake on drinking alcohol. Researchers of the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center and their European colleagues have found that mice engineered to lack the gene seem to like alcohol much more.

They have also found that people with one version of beta-Klotho drink less on average.

“The findings are based on the largest genome-wide association meta-analysis and replication study to date mapping and comparing the genetics — the DNA — of more than 105,000 light and heavy social drinkers,” said Dr. David Mangelsdorf, chair of Pharmacology at UTSW.

Mangelsdorf hopes to use this finding for a better treatment not just for alcoholism, but also for other types of people who drink too much as no drugs are currently available to suppress the desire to drink alcohol.

In their report that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mangelsdorf and his colleagues said excessive alcohol consumption is a major public health problem worldwide, and caused an estimated 3.3 million deaths in 2012.

Taking in too much alcohol can raise the risk of many types of cancer, including breast and liver cancers, and heart disease.

The UTSW team has also found that beta-Klotho, like so many genes, does not function by itself but works with genes called FGF21 and FGF19.

“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,” Mangelsdorf said in a statement.

“If we are able to identify people with heavy, unhealthy or alcohol use disorders who have this genetic variant, we can specially target this complex,” said Dr. Sidarth Wakhlu, a psychiatrist who heads UTSW’s addiction division.

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