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New Research from Mount Sinai on Alcohol Could Spur Development of Antidote

New York, NY (PRWEB) October 23, 2013

Scientists now understand how alcohol alters the activity of brain proteins. Ethanol, the alcohol found in beer, wine, and spirits, impairs communication between nerve cells in the brain, affecting our perception and behavior. Paul A. Slesinger, PhD, Professor in the Arthur M. Fishberg Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Karthik Bodhinathan, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA, examined the physical site for ethanol in a brain ion channel, a protein that controls electrical activity of neurons. Results from their study, published online Oct. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that scientists have a clearer view of ethanol’s action and potentially how to interfere with it.

“Ethanol is an amazingly simple drug chemically, yet scientists have been mystified by how a small molecule exerts such profound effects on the function of brain proteins,” said Dr. Slesinger.

In previous work, Dr. Slesinger identified a trigger site for ethanol located with a brain potassium ion channel, which controls electrical activity for proper nerve cell communication. This new research builds on that work, describing for the first time, used a unique technique of ‘alcohol tagging’ to decipher the molecular mechanism underlying ethanol activation of this brain channel protein. In the new paper, “we also discovered a molecule commonly found in the cell’s membrane that can directly influence how ethanol activates these brain potassium channels,” said Dr. Bodhinathan.

“Now that we know the way ethanol binds to these brain proteins, it may be possible in the future to design drugs that take advantage of the chemical features of this alcohol site,” said Dr. Slesinger. “Designing drugs as an antidote might prove a viable intervention.”

Drs. Slesinger and Bodhinathan believe that their work may extend to other alcohol-sensitive proteins, opening the door to a whole new direction for developing alcohol-selective therapeutics in the treatment of alcoholism and addiction.”

This work was supported by the American Heart Association, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven member hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.

The System includes approximately 6,600 primary and specialty care physicians, 12-minority-owned free-standing ambulatory surgery centers, over 45 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island, as well as 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report.

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