Drunk Flies Shine Light on Human Intoxication

first_imgStay on target Drunk Shoppers Blow $48B Annually—Mostly on Amazon’Extremely Drunk’ Canadian Curling Team Booted Off Ice Nothing kills a good New Year’s Eve buzz like understanding the science behind intoxication.A new study from Scripps Research uses drunk flies to demonstrate how inebriation actually occurs.Insects and mammals alike can be plastered. So Scripps associate professor Scott Hansen and his team made a bunch of fruit flies merry to track ethanol’s path.The fly is a useful model to study gene activity because its genome is smaller than other animals and easily manipulated, according to Hansen.“They act just like people,” he said about the bugs. “They start losing coordination. They literally get drunk.”As any tippler will know, alcohol acts like an anesthetic, creating a “buzzed” feeling first, then sedation. But how?Scientists looked to the enzyme phospholipase D2 (PLD2), which links ethanol molecules to lipid (fat) in the membrane of the nerve cell. The enzyme appears to create a domino effect within the cell: It generates a fatty alcohol metabolite (phosphatidylethanol [PEtOH]), which builds up and causes nerves to fire more easily, resulting in more hyperactive flies.“With hyperactivity you see the flies run around more, and this is what we equate to being buzzed,” Hansen said.When the team turned off the gene that makes PEtOH, they were able to eliminate the signal, and cancel the excitable effects.This breakthrough, published in the Journal of Molecular Biology, marks the first time this pathway has been identified as a determinant of alcohol sensitivity.With a bit more research, Hansen & Co. may be able to develop an antidote to intoxication or, better yet, hangovers.“Also, understanding this pathway could give insight as to why people use alcohol for pain management,” Hansen said.“It has definitely led to some different ways of thinking about alcohol intoxication at the molecular level,” he continued. “Most scientists thought alcohol had a direct effect. Blocking the enzyme in flies shows that’s not likely true.”More on Geek.com:‘Extremely Drunk’ Canadian Curling Team Booted Off IceDrunk Man ‘Accidentally’ Buys Live Peacock, Salamander on Singles’ DayWorld’s Tiniest Fly With Massive Legs Named For Arnold Schwarzeneggerlast_img


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