Cancer drugs could help alcoholics.
v. t. & i. 1. To drink to excess. . Others cannot--probably a genetic difference. A team led by Ulrike Heberlein at the University of California, San Francisco , looked at fruit flies to try to get to the bottom of this difference.
Flies respond to drink in a similar way as humans--initially hyperactive and then uncoordinated--eventually falling over and being unable to right themselves. Heberlein's team found a gene, now called happyhour, that makes fruit flies sensitive to alcohol. It appears to do this by damping down the activity of a cellular network called the epidermal growth factor Epidermal growth factor or EGF is a growth factor that plays an important role in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation and differentiation. Human EGF is a 6045 Da protein with 53 amino acid residues and three intramolecular disulfide bonds. (EGF EGF
epidermal growth factor ) pathway.
The EGF pathway is also implicated im·pli·cate
tr.v. im·pli·cat·ed, im·pli·cat·ing, im·pli·cates
1. To involve or connect intimately or incriminatingly: evidence that implicates others in the plot.
2. in cancer, which suggests that anticancer drugs that interfere with this pathway might increase alcohol sensitivity and make alcohol less appealing. The team found that when they gave the drugs erlotinib and gefitinib to flies, they were more likely to be knocked out by alcohol. Rats also chose to drink less alcohol after taking erlotinib.
If these drugs also lower alcohol tolerance in people they could be used to treat alcoholism--hopefully at lower doses than those used in cancer treatment.
New Scientist 2009; 30 May