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‘Don’t give up’: Alcoholism can now be treated in a new way!

Today, it seems as if there is a solution to treat alcoholism. Researchers have found a hormone that can reduce alcohol cravings by half. An article published in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism found that the hormone Fibroblast Growth Factor 21 (FGF21) reduced the urge to drink alcohol by half in vervet monkeys. The scientists of the University of Iowa tested the effect of FGF21 on vervet monkeys, which are known for consuming alcohol. It is hoped that the test results on vervet monkeys could help humans too.

According to a study published on February 1 in Cell Metabolism, liver-produced FGF21 plays a role in alcohol addiction. Vervet monkeys with a strong alcohol preference drank far less after they were given a synthetic version of this hormone. Alcohol addiction may now be treated with new treatments thanks to this finding. Vervet monkeys with a preference for ethanol and an FGF21 analog consumed 50% less alcohol. Moreover, scientists studied the brain circuits of mice and discovered that the protein, which also reduces sugar intake, acts on different circuits to reduce both sugar and alcohol consumption.

It is interesting to note that mammals have been exposed to alcohol primarily via fermenting fruits, which are rich in simple sugars. Matthew Potthoff, Senior Study Author, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, discussed how neural circuits regulating FGF21-mediated suppression of sugar and alcohol intake did not develop together under a shared selective pressure. They reported their findings in a paper titled, ‘FGF21 suppresses alcohol consumption through an amygdala-striatal circuit,’ written in collaboration with the University of Iowa and international collaborators, including Ph.D. Kyle Flippo of the University of Iowa and PhD Matthew Gillum and Ph.D. Samuel Trammell of the University of Copenhagen.

As they concluded, ‘These findings identify a homeostatic liver-to-brain circuit that regulates alcohol intake and demonstrates the feasibility of targeting this pathway for therapeutic applications. Excessive alcohol consumption is a major health and social issue. Since excessive consumption negatively impacts health and survival, it is not surprising that mammals have evolved multiple physiological systems to sense and control it’. Attempts to therapeutically target pathways that regulate alcohol consumption have not been entirely successful.

According to scientists, further studies are needed to explore the effects of FGF21 on these neurons during alcohol consumption in animal models. ‘Our results provide a mechanism for an endocrine feedback loop between the brain and liver that may protect the liver from damage,’ University of Iowa co-first author, Kyle Flippo, says. Furthermore, the data indicate that FGF21 analogs may be a potential treatment option for alcohol-use disorders and related diagnoses.


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