September 29, 2011
Drunken Behavior The Fault Of Our Immune System
Researchers from the University of Adelaide are finding out that how your body responds to alcohol is strongly tied to the reaction of immune cells in your brain. Some well-known reactions to alcohol include impaired ability to control the muscles involved in walking and talking.
“It´s amazing to think that despite 10,000 years of using alcohol, and several decades of investigation into the way that alcohol affects the nerve cells in our brain, we are still trying to figure out exactly how it works,” says lead researcher Dr. Mark Hutchinson, ARC Research Fellow with the University´s School of Medical Sciences.“Alcohol is consumed annually by two billion people world-wide with its abuse posing a significant health and social problem,” Hutchinson explains. “Over 76 million people are diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder.
This immune response from the brain could help explain why some imbibers are quickly affected after a few drinks. Some people begin slurring their words and losing their inhibitions after a single glass of wine, while others can enjoy many drinks with few ill effects.
The researchers who carried out the study focused on how alcohol affects glial cells, which comprise 90 percent of the brain, The Telegraph is reporting. Glial cells play are important in immune responses, helping to fight infections such as meningitis.
The research showed that shutting off the immune response prevented the mice in the study that were given alcohol from getting drunk, according to the British Journal of Pharmacology study. The reflexes of the mice were much better and they also found it much easier to balance and walk than animals whose brain immune cells were allowed to work normally after consuming the alcohol.
“When a mouse gets drunk, it is quite similar to a human that´s drunk. It can´t work its motor coordination properly. If you stop these immune cells from working, the animals didn´t get drunk,” Hutchinson said.
This research has important implications for understanding how alcohol affects us in immunological and neuronal responses. Individuals who may have bad outcomes after consuming alcohol could benefit greatly and further research could detect people who are at greater risk of developing brain damage after long-term drinking.
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