Tag Archives: researchers

NPY: Not Only a Treatment for Alcohol Abuse – but a Marker

binge-drinking-NPYThe practice of “binge drinking” is a common occurrence among young adults, especially with young men. Drinking as much alcohol as you can, as fast as you can, may be appealing to those trying to catch up with their peers; however, binge drinking can be extremely dangerous - leading to a number of health problems - as well as dependence and addiction. As a result, researchers have long sought ways to curb binge drinking behaviors using science. At the University of North Carolina (UNC), a team of researchers used "a series of genetic and pharmacological approaches" to identify a protein in the brain called neuropeptide Y (NPY), which suppressed binge drinking behavior in a mouse model, Medical News Today reports. "Specifically, we found that NPY acted in a part of the brain known as the extended amygdala (or bed nucleus of the stria terminalis) that we know is linked to both stress and reward,” explained study lead author Thomas L. Kash, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of pharmacology and psychology and a member of UNC's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. This antidrinking effect was due to increasing inhibition (the brakes) on a specific population of cells that produce a 'pro-drinking' molecule called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF)." "When we then mimicked the actions of NPY using engineered proteins, we were also able to suppress binge alcohol drinking in mice," notes Kash. What’s interesting, in the study the researchers found that the "antidrinking" NPY system may be susceptible to alteration by long-term drinking in multiple species. The researchers’ findings suggest that NPY may not only be a treatment for alcohol abuse - but a marker. "The identification of where in the brain and how NPY blunts binge drinking, and the observation that the NPY system is compromised during early binge drinking prior to the transition to dependence, are novel and important observations," study co-author Todd E. Thiele, PhD, professor of psychology at UNC and a member of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. The findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.

High-Potency Marijuana and Psychosis

high-potency-marijuanaNew research suggests the use of high-potency marijuana may be linked to an increased risk of psychosis, Medical News Today reports. The study was conducted by researchers at the institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London in the UK. Dr. Marta Di Forti and her team observed the effects of high-potency marijuana use among 780 individuals aged 18-65. Between 2005 and 2011, 410 participants reported a first episode of psychosis, according to the article. Psychosis occurs when people experience hallucinations or delusions, often happening in conjunction with particular mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. The research suggests, according to Dr. Di Forti, that the risk of psychosis among marijuana users is dependent on different factors, like frequency of use and drug potency - factors which should be considered by physicians. "When a GP or psychiatrist asks if a patient uses cannabis it's not helpful; it's like asking whether someone drinks," says Dr. Di Forti. "As with alcohol, the relevant questions are how often and what type of cannabis. This gives more information about whether the user is at risk of mental health problems; awareness needs to increase for this to happen." It was determined that around 24% of psychosis cases could be avoided if people were to stop using this high-potency cannabis, the article reports. Although, since the study was conducted over a long period of time, the researchers say they did not have data on how much marijuana was used each day, which could present problems. "However, because we collected information about use over a period of years and not about present use, the reliability of such detailed information would probably have been confounded by recall bias to a greater extent than was the general description of pattern of use that we obtained," the researchers add. The findings were published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Daily Drinking and the Risk of Cirrhosis

daily-drinkingThe over consumption of alcohol can be detrimental to the human body, having an adverse affect on number of organs. Prolonged and excessive use can ultimately result in the loss of life. One of the most common ailments associated with alcohol use is cirrhosis of the liver, the result of advanced liver disease. New research has found that alcohol drinking patterns significantly influence the risk of cirrhosis and that daily drinking increases the risk, Science Daily reports. "For the first time, our study points to a risk difference between drinking daily and drinking five or six days a week in the general male population, since earlier studies were conducted on alcohol misusers and patients referred for liver disease and compared daily drinking to 'binge pattern' or 'episodic' drinking," observed lead investigator Gro Askgaard, MD, of the Department of Hepatology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, and the National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark. "Since the details of alcohol induced liver injury are unknown, we can only speculate that the reason may be that daily alcohol exposure worsens liver damage or inhibits liver regeneration." In Europe, where more alcohol is consumed than anywhere in the world, approximately 170,000 people die from alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver every year, according to the article. Researchers set out to analyze the patterns of drinking associated with alcoholic cirrhosis. Hazard ratios (HRs) for alcoholic cirrhosis were determined by looking at drinking frequency, lifetime alcohol amount, and beverage type among nearly 56,000 participants between 50 and 64 years of age. Of the participants, 257 men developed alcoholic cirrhosis; the researchers found that daily drinking and recent alcohol consumption is the strongest predictor of alcoholic cirrhosis. "Earlier studies regarding lifetime alcohol consumption and risk of alcoholic cirrhosis reached opposite conclusions, for instance, whether a previous high level of alcohol amount predicted future risk, even after having cut down," commented Dr. Askgaard. "From a clinical point of view, this is relevant in order to execute evidence-based counselling, and from a public health perspective, it may guide health interventions for the general population." "This is a timely contribution about one of the most important, if not the most important risk factor for liver cirrhosis globally, because our overall knowledge about drinking patterns and liver cirrhosis is sparse and in part contradictory," said noted expert Jürgen Rehm, PhD, Director of the Social and Epidemiological Research Department of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto. "The work of Askgaard and colleagues not only increases our knowledge, but also raises questions for future research. The question of binge drinking patterns and mortality is far from solved, and there may be genetic differences or other covariates not yet discovered, which play a role and could explain the different empirical findings." The study, “Alcohol drinking pattern and risk of alcoholic liver cirrhosis: A prospective cohort study,” was published in the Journal of Hepatology.

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