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Science News: Can mice help the inebriated sober up faster?

– K.J., Editor

Alcohol induces a sense of relaxation in many vertebrates including humans and has been widely used by people to relax and lower their inhibitions to have fun. However, this care-free attitude can lead to trouble. Acute alcohol poisoning is an ever-present risk of excessive alcohol consumption, so moderate drinking has been advised by the Brewers Association of Japan as a safe way for adults, particularly young adults, to consume alcoholic beverages safely.

Young adults are unfortunately more likely to acquiesce to peer pressure and engage in risky behavior. Thus, this demographic has been the primary target of various campaigns and laws that are meant to prevent disorderly conduct, accidents, property damage, injury and even death that can result from heavy drinking. Professor and endocrinologist David Mangelsdorf, a lead researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center lamented that there are no drug therapies available to treat alcohol poisoning, so all medical staff can do is monitor the individual until they wake up.

A recent study has shown that the naturally-occurring hormone called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) that is produced in the liver and regulates glucose and lipid homeostasis, might one day be an effective pharmacotherapeutic agent for reducing the effects of alcohol poisoning. Prof. Mangelsdorf’s joint laboratory with Dr. Steven Kliewer performed animal experiments with mice and discovered that inebriated mice that were administered FGF21 were able to wake up from their alcohol-induced stupor twice as fast as the control mice, and were even able to maintain their balance and not fall for a longer time. These findings are encouraging, as human trials are expected to show comparative results.

In the meantime, government and private organizations will continue to inform the general public about the dangers of excessive drinking. The fact that there are no currently available pharmaceutical agents on the market to reverse the effects of acute alcohol poisoning was unknown even to me, and this fact should be shared with everyone. How about you, did you know?

Click here for the Japanese version.

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