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ScienceShot: Gene Therapy Dries Up Binge Drinking Rats

Even rats can't resist an open bar. When researchers provided a group of the rodents with unlimited free booze, letting them binge on 10% lab ethanol from their water bottles in "90-minute drinking sessions" for 3 weeks, the rats quickly developed a taste for the alcohol and became dependent on it. The team then injected an RNA molecule into the rats' amygdalas, the region of the brain involved in emotional responses. The molecule blocked a gene that codes for a receptor for GABA, a brain signaling molecule. After the treatment, the rats stopped drinking almost immediately, although they started up again after about a week, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Examining the rats' brains, the researchers found a change in the expression of a number of genes, some of which had previously been linked to alcoholism in humans. Blocking these genes using RNA molecules, known as RNA interference, could be a potential treatment for alcoholism, they say.

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