A research group under the leadership of Link?ping University Professor Markus Heilig has identified an enzyme whose production is turned off in nerve cells of the frontal lobe2 when alcohol dependence3 develops. The deficiency in this enzyme leads to continued use of alcohol despite adverse4 consequences. The discovery is now published in the number-one ranked psychiatric journal from the Nature Publishing Group, and could mean completely new possibilities for treating alcoholism.
He and his research group are linking together research into alcoholism and other addictive5 illnesses with advanced brain research. It has long been suspected that people with alcohol dependence have impaired6 function in the frontal lobes7 of the brain, but the underlying8 biological mechanisms9 have not been known. The research team behind the paper, which includes researchers from both Link?ping University and University of Miami, is the first to identify this molecular11 mechanism10.
Several years of dedicated12 research lie behind this breakthrough. The research, in which Dr Estelle Barbier - post-doctoral fellow at CSAN - had a central role, has shown that alcohol dependence in rats leads to a down-regulation of PRDM2 production, which in turn leads to disruption of impulse control. This is why the laboratory animals continue to consume alcohol, even when it is unpleasant. If they are subjected to stress, they also quickly relapse into drinking alcohol.