(CHAPEL HILL, NC) -- Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine recently discovered new information about how alcohol affects the brain. The scientific team led by Dr. Kirk Wilhelmsen uncovered a gene variant in 10 to 20 percent of the population that protects against alcoholism by making a person feel more inebriated than most after just a few drinks. “Basically, we gave alcohol to college kids,” Wilhelmsen told the Charlotte News Observer. He reported the discovery in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
The kids were pairs of siblings who had at least one alcoholic parent. Researchers gave them alcohol then asked them how they felt, testing to see whether their level of drunkenness was linked to any specific gene.
Researchers zeroed in on the gene that carries an enzyme that breaks down alcohol, CYP2E1. The enzyme works in the brain, not the liver, where most alcohol gets broken down. Wilhelmson says that means the people with the “tipsy” variant don’t act drunker than anyone else but they do feel more intoxicated.
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