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Liver Hormone may help Reduce Alcohol Addiction

Researchers have pieced together a more complete picture of the role that a particular Hormone plays in alcohol addiction. Monkeys with a strong alcohol preference drank far less after they were given a synthetic version of this Hormone, potentially opening the path to new treatments for alcohol addiction.

The Hormone in question is known as fibroblast growth factor 21, and it’s produced by the liver. Previous work has shown that variants in genes associated with FGF21 are linked to increased alcohol consumption in humans, but the exact nature of that link remained uncertain. So for the new study, researchers investigated which brain circuits FGF21 is affecting, and whether administering the Hormone could reduce the desire for alcohol.

The team tested the idea in vervet monkeys, whose attitude to alcohol is remarkably similar to humans. In monkey communities with access to alcohol either naturally fermenting fruit or unsupervised drinks in tourist hotspots most animals are social drinkers, while some abstain, and a small percentage are binge drinkers. This last group was the subject of the study.

The researchers gave the monkeys a two-bottle choice between water and ethanol, and administered one group an analog of FGF21 to see what effect it had. Sure enough, the test monkeys drank 50 percent less alcohol than the control group. Similar tests in mice also saw a 50%  reduction in alcohol consumption after being given either human FGF21 or an analog.

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