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New Research from Mount Sinai on Alcohol Could Spur Development of Antidote
Date:10/23/2013

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.”

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