An interesting new study has zeroed in on a brain region that is central to the development of both alcohol abuse and anxiety in adults, and shows that using gene editing to clear a person’s propensity for both disorders. how can be done. Comprised of a “factory reset” for the brain, the technique is touted as a potential way to treat conditions that can be traced back to adolescence, and new insights into the effects on brain health of binge drinking at an early age. Provides insight.
The study was carried out by scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago and builds on previous work exploring ways binge drinking during adolescence may reshape brain chemistry with long-lasting effects. Scientists previously found that binge drinking during those formative years reduced the expression of activity-regulated cytoskeleton associated protein (Arc) genes in the amygdala, a brain region important for regulating emotions.
One of the lingering effects of this epigenetic reprogramming of the Arc gene, the scientists found, was an increased propensity for anxiety and alcohol use disorders in adulthood. For their new study, the scientists sought to test whether these effects could be reversed with the help of modern gene-editing techniques, namely CRISPR-d Cas9.
In their experiments, rats were subjected to intermittent alcohol exposure during adolescence, which corresponded to 10 to 18 years of age in humans. When the mice became adults, the scientists used CRISPR-d Cas9 to normalize the expression of the Arc gene, which in turn reduced anxiety indicators and a preference for alcohol consumption.
These were measured through behavioral tests and maze experiments to gauge the rodents’ anxiety levels, and experiments that presented them with a choice of different fluids containing different concentrations of alcohol. Reverse experiments showed that using CRISPR-d Cas9 to downregulate Arc gene expression had the opposite effect, promoting indicators of anxiety and prioritizing alcohol intake.
“Early binge drinking can have a long-lasting and significant effect on the brain, and the results of this study provide evidence that gene editing is a potential antidote to these effects, if you wish, as a brainwashing agent.” kind of factory reset,” he said. Study senior author Subhash Pandey.
In their study, the scientists emphasize the importance of adolescence as a critical period of brain development and also point out that drinking during this time may not only increase the risk of alcohol use disorder, which is preventable. It is a leading cause of death, but also mental disorders such as anxiety. , The research not only sheds new light on the biological mechanisms underlying these relationships, but opens up some interesting new possibilities about how these conditions might be treated.
“Adolescent drinking is a serious public health problem, and this study not only helps us understand what happens in the developing brain when they are exposed to high concentrations of alcohol, but more importantly, how We are hopeful that one day we will have effective treatments for the complex and multifaceted disease of anxiety and alcohol use disorder,” Pandey said. “This effect was seen in epigenetic reprogramming of adolescent binge drinking through arc enhancer genes in the amygdala. indirectly validates the importance of
The research was published in the journal Science.
Source: University of Illinois Chicago