Mammals began consuming alcohol from fermented fruit long before humans developed methods to produce alcohol from distillation.
Excessive alcohol consumption is a major health and social issue globally. Recently a group of researchers has found the role of a hormone in alcohol addiction. The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
There have been multiple efforts to therapeutically target pathways that contribute to the regulation of alcohol consumption, but the results have been limited in their efficacy to effectively treat alcohol use disorder.
Recent genome-wide association studies identified multiple Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the genes FGF21 and KLB as being associated with increased alcohol consumption in humans. FGF21 is produced from the liver in response to metabolic and nutritional challenges and functions to regulate energy homeostasis and macronutrient balance.
FGF21 can cross the blood-brain barrier and signal to the CNS is important for its effects to modulate energy balance and macronutrient preference.
The research team used a type of primates called vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus sabaeus) to evaluate the effect of FGF21 in suppressing alcohol consumption. The attitude to alcohol of these monkeys is remarkably similar to humans.
The researchers gave the monkeys a two-bottle choice between water and ethanol and administered one group an analog of FGF21 to see what effect it had. The test monkeys drank 50% less alcohol than the control group. Similar tests in mice also saw a 50% reduction in alcohol consumption after being given either human FGF21 or an analog.
They also investigated the effects of FGF21 in the brains of mice and found that the hormone changes the activity of neurons in the basolateral amygdala, which affects neural transmission to the nucleus accumbens, and the area of the brain that has a key role in reward functions and addiction.
The researchers believe that FGF21 analogs could be eventually developed into potential treatments for alcohol addiction.
Kyle H. Flippo, et al. FGF21 suppresses alcohol consumption through an amygdalo-striatal circuit. Cell Metabolism. Vol 34, Issue 2, P317-328.E6. 2022. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2021.12.024
Photo by: Francisco Fernandez, M.D.