Alcoholic monkeys: New treatment cuts alcohol consumption by 50%, could help humans next

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Hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer from alcohol use disorders and millions die from it each year.

Although scientists have been working to increase the effectiveness of drugs that could help make lifestyle changes last more permanently, most treatment methods include some type of counseling.

Scientists have developed a drug that reduces excessive alcohol consumption by 50% in alcoholic vervet monkeys, possibly paving the way for a cure for humans suffering from alcoholism.

Vervet monkeys are a crucial species for researchers because they share a variety of characteristics, including a preference for alcohol, which they have been known to steal from bar patrons.

According to new research, an equivalent of fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21), a hepatic hormone, successfully inhibits alcohol consumption in vervet monkeys and mice.

Scientists from the University of Iowa and the University of Copenhagen have discovered a new technique to target brain networks that help mammals therapeutically regulate their drinking.

To establish their baseline drinking behavior, twenty male vervet monkeys with this natural predisposition to alcohol were given access to alcohol for four hours a day for four days.

Then they were split into two groups, one receiving a placebo and the other receiving the new FGF21-like drug.

Dr Kyle Flippo, from the University of Iowa, said: “Our findings provide a mechanism for a liver-brain endocrine feedback loop that presumably functions to protect the liver from damage.

“The central molecular and cellular effects of FGF21 represent an opportunity for future research, and current data indicate that FGF21 analogs may provide a potential treatment option for alcohol use disorders and related diagnoses,” added Dr. Flippo.

(With agency contributions)

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