A vaccine to combat alcoholism will begin human testing next year, claim Chilean researchers.
The genetic therapy is based on aldehyde dehydrogenase, a group of enzymes that metabolize alcohol and are thus responsible for alcohol tolerance, Professor Juan Asenjo told the AFP news agency. Asenjo heads a team of researchers at Chile’s Faculty of Sciences and Mathematics and the private lab Recalcine.
In October, US researchers announced they had discovered a gene variation known as CYP2EI that can protect against alcoholism and could lead to a preventative treatment. University of North Carolina researchers at the Chapel Hill School of Medicine report the gene variant known as CYP2EI is linked to people’s response to alcohol, and for 10 to 20 percent of people who have it, just a few glasses leads them to feeling more drunk than the rest of the population.
This CYP2EI gene — located in the brain, not the liver — has long been known to hold an enzyme for metabolizing alcohol, and generates molecules known as free radicals. However a specific variant of the gene makes people more sensitive to alcohol, according to University of North Carolina researchers.
Drugs that can be created to induce the CYP2EI gene could eventually make people more sensitive to alcohol or help sober them up if they have had too much, according to that research team.
Professor Asenjo tolds Radio Cooperativa. “The vaccine would similarly increase unease, nausea and tachycardia (accelerated heart beat). About 20 percent of the Asian population lacks this enzyme and thus experience such a strong reaction that it discourages consumption. With the vaccine, the desire to consume alcohol will be greatly reduced thanks to these reactions.”
Researchers have already successfully tested the vaccine on rats that were dependent on alcohol, and got them to halve their consumption. “The idea is to have 90-95 percent reduction of consumption for humans.” Asenjo continues.