Scientists in the UK have discovered a liver hormone which plays a crucial role in controlling the drinking limits of the body. The discovery of FGF21, reported in the 'Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences' journal this week, could lead to a pill that could help alcoholics curb their cravings for alcohol. Professor Gunter Schumann, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London said: "Our study reveals a previously unrecognised liver-brain pathway which regulates alcohol consumption in humans, and which could one day be targeted therapeutically to suppress consumption in problem drinkers". "The results point towards an intriguing feedback loop, where FGF21 is produced in the liver in response to sugar and alcohol intake, which then acts directly on the brain to limit consumption.
We cannot rule out the possibility that beta-Klotho acts by affecting neighbouring genes, so further genetic studies are warranted," Schumann said. DNA samples were analysed from more than 105,000 people of European descent, who were also questioned about their weekly drinking habits. Although the effect that the gene had was small, the possible mechanism involved may lead to a target for drugs to help people to cut down on their drinking. Co-author Professor Paul Elliott, from Imperial College London, said: "Our findings may eventually lead to new treatments for people whose health is being harmed by drinking." By looking at the genomes of the research sample, researchers found that even moderate drinking was increased by gene mutation.
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