[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
As we recover from the holiday weekend, there’s some intoxicating news on curbing the effects of alcohol. In the May 29th issue of Cell, scientists report discovering a gene that controls fruit flies’ sensitivity to ethanol. And if that just sounds like tipsytalk, the finding suggests that a couple of current anticancer drugs might find use in treating alcoholism.
Some flies, like some people, just can’t hold their drink. One sip and they’re tripping over their own wings. So the scientists set out to search for the fly genes involved in alcohol sensitivity. And they turned up a gene they call happyhour. Flies with a normal version of this gene are liquor light-weights, while happyhour mutants can drink their fly friends under the table.
In the normal flies, happyhour blocks a hormone called EGF. And the scientists found that two anticancer drugs, which also inhibit EGF, make boozing flies more woozy—a feeling that’s as unpleasant for flies as it is for people. Rats, too, will take a nip and say enough when they’re on these drugs.
Robbing booze of its buzz is one way to attack alcoholism. Which means that, at least genetically speaking, it’s good to have a little happyhour.