That intolerance also has medical implications. A number of studies have shown that people carrying the gene variant respond less to the nitroglycerin therapy that is a basic part of heart disease treatment, Hurley said.
And the activation of ALDH2 activity has the potential for much wider clinical applications. Free radical damage is a major feature of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other diseases, Mochly-Rosen noted.
If it fulfills its promise, Alda-1 could be given to someone in a situation where the heart is subject to free radical damage, Hurley said. It could help recovery from heart surgery, for example. The ultimate hope is that it can be given to prevent such damage.
That would require a long series of trials, and the candidate drug emerging from them might not be Alda-1, Mochly-Rosen said. With Hurley, the Stanford researchers are looking at chemical relatives that might be more effective.
Given the financial requirements of such an effort, "it would require industry to step in and do it," Mochly-Rosen said.
And the thought of a pill that could be taken after a night on the town to make the morning after more bearable? "That is not something I would be very proud of," Mochly-Rosen said.
"Societal issues would come from that," Hurley said.
A guide to the good and bad effects of alcohol on health is offered by the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Thomas D. Hurley, Ph.D., professor, biochemistry and molecular biology, Indiana University, Indianapolis; Daria Mochly-Rosen, Ph.D, professor, chemical and systems biology, Stanford University, California; Sept. 12, 2008, Science
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