HealthBeyond dependency, how alcohol abuse triggers brain inflammation, hinting novel treatment

Beyond dependency, how alcohol abuse triggers brain inflammation, hinting novel treatment

Scientists prove that alcohol can affect inflammation in our brain.
Scientists prove that alcohol can affect inflammation in our brain.
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4:03 PM EST, January 11, 2024

In their study, scientists closely observed mice that had developed an alcohol dependency. Findings showed that in the brains of these mice, a distinctive immune signaling molecule known as interleukin (or IL-1β) was found in abundance. The high presence of this molecule led to inflammation in the brain sections that are responsible for decision-making.

"These inflammatory changes in the brain could contribute to the risk-taking behavior and impulsivity seen in individuals suffering from alcohol-related disorders," says Prof. Marisa Roberto of Scripps Research, as quoted by EurekAlert!.

Roberto also pointed out that these findings might indicate a potential treatment pathway for alcohol disorders using anti-inflammatory drugs currently on the market.

"We had suspicions regarding the role IL-1β plays in alcohol consumption disorders, but the precise mechanisms in the brain were unclear," admits Dr. Florence Varodayan of Binghamton University.

During the study, scientists compared mice that were addicted to alcohol to those that were not, including mice exposed to alcohol occasionally. The group addicted to alcohol had twice the amount of IL-1β in the medial prefrontal cortex. In humans, this brain area is responsible for self-control, emotions, and adherence to social norms.

Can Anti-Inflammatory Drugs play a New Role?

Until now, the US Food and Drug Administration has only approved drugs that block IL-1β for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. However, the new research suggests these drugs could also be utilized in treating alcohol disorders. Notwithstanding, further investigation is required to ensure this approach would be safe.

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