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A team in the United Kingdom concluded that there is a hormone link between the liver and the brain that may affect alcohol consumption. The team made this observation after compiling data from large scale genome studies which included more than 105,000 participants that also completed surveys about their alcohol usage. 

The researchers discovered that the β-Klotho gene appeared to be partially responsible for the amount of alcohol the research participants drank. They made this observation after noticing that those with a certain variant of the β-Klotho gene (about 40% of the participants of the study) drank less alcohol than those with the other variant.

Next the researchers observed the genes in mice and found the same thing - that those with the β-Klotho gene consumed less alcohol than their counterparts. Researchers then examined the hormone FGF21 - a hormone in the liver that has been known to hinder the desire for alcohol in mice. What they noticed was that this hormone did not have that same effect in mice without the β-Klotho gene present. In fact they reported that the hormone had no effect on the consumption of alcohol at all in the non-carriers, meaning that the effects of FGF21 were directly related to whether the mice had the gene or not.

The researchers also stated that the results of this study may indicate that there is a "feedback loop" related to FGF21 and the brain. Consuming alcohol causes FGF21 to be produced, which would lead to a self-limiting response in those with the less common β-Klotho gene variant. They believe further studies need to be conducted before it is known whether the gene directly causes this effect or if it affects other related genes instead. The study also only surveyed those without an addiction to alcohol, so they remain unsure whether this gene has the same effect on those suffering from alcoholism.

Paul Elliott, one of the heads of this research, said that their "findings may eventually lead to new treatments for people whose health is being harmed by drinking". If new treatments were developed it would be fantastic, as irresponsible use of alcohol is a huge issue worldwide. In just 2012 alone, alcohol was responsible for 5.9% of all deaths worldwide. More research investigating the relationship between the body and alcohol will hopefully lead to less deaths as a result.





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  1. This is fascinating new research considering how heavily current treatment for alcoholism depends on targeting the emotional and environment causes for the disease. It's already known that populations that metabolize alcohol at unusually high or low rates can have respectively higher risks of developing alcoholism, such as Native Americans, or lower risks, such as East Asians, because a lower rate of alcohol metabolism produces many more unpleasant side effects from drinking in the short term. So it's interesting to see researchers pinpointing the exact genetic risk factors that play a physiological role in causing alcoholism. Hopefully we'll eventually see research like this incorporated into more effective future alcoholism treatment that targets not just the mental, but also physical causes of the disease.

  2. This research is very intriguing. What I found to be most thought-provoking was the discussion of "feedback loops" observed in the studies. The idea that the body's endocrine system's natural use of negative feedback loops to keep the body in a state of homeostasis may be affected by this one SNP is intriguing. What does this mean for the future of biological research? The communication between organs within the body is intricate and overlapping, and it is fascinating to think about just how many reactions and outcomes can be made simply by the allele pairings of a few SNPs of DNA. I understand that much of this research is not entirely conclusive, but it is compelling nonetheless.