Rewriting Life

Why Mice Drink

Most scientists believe that alcoholism is a genetic disease linked to differences in the way the genes in different people’s brain cells regulate the chemical pathways affected by alcohol. But they’ve had little success determining exactly which pathways and genes are critical, partly because alcohol affects so many brain functions.

Now, with the help of advanced DNA microarray technology, studies of alcohol-preferring lab mice are narrowing down the possibilities. In a study led by Susan Bergeson, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas at Austin, researchers compared gene expression in the brains of two groups of mice, one averse to alcohol and the other preferring a 10 percent ethanol solution in their water bottles. Using high-throughput microarrays, which can measure the expression levels of thousands of genes at once, Bergeson’s team found 3,800 genes that seemed to be associated with how much the mice liked alcohol; 36 in that group were labeled high priority, as similar genes are found in stretches of the human genome that have been implicated in alcoholism.

Future research may examine these genes using databases of DNA samples from alcoholics and their family members – work that could eventually help doctors screen patients for a genetic predisposition to alcoholism.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.