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Analysis of alcoholics' brains suggests treatment target
Date:5/2/2008

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. An analysis of brain tissue samples from chronic alcoholics reveals changes that occur at the molecular level in alcohol abuse and suggests a potential treatment target, according to researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Reporting in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the scientists said that a protein known as beta-catenin that is involved in cell signaling and development is found at higher levels in the brains of chronic alcoholics compared to people of the same age with no history of alcoholism.

The results were reported online this week and will appear in the June print issue.

We have identified a protein that may be a cause of alcohol dependence and tolerance, suggesting the possibility of developing a drug to inhibit the molecule and treat the disease, said Qiang Gu, Ph.D., senior author.

Gu and colleagues used cutting-edge technology to explore the idea that the complex behavioral, psychological, emotional and brain changes associated with alcoholism are likely due to how networks of proteins respond to chronic and excessive alcohol intake. Proteins, which are manufactured by genes, determine how an organism looks, how well its body metabolizes food or fights infection, and even how it behaves.

Using a newly emerging tool to study proteins, called antibody microarray analyses, Gu and colleagues are able to measure levels of more than 500 different proteins in tissue samples. In a pilot study, they noted that beta-catenin was increased in alcoholics, so they studied it in more detail. In the current study, they evaluated levels of 17 proteins associated with the catenin signaling pathway.

This is a powerful tool for examining the abundance of large numbers of proteins simultaneously, said Gu, an assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy.

He cautioned that more research is needed before scientists can use the information to devel
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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