Scientists Find Clue To Alcohol Addiction

A protein that plays a critical role in dissolving blood clots also plays a part in alcohol addiction, US scientists have claimed. Researchers at the Rockefeller University believe they have identified the way alcohol abuse triggers changes to the brain that lead to dependence. The team found that mice that lacked the protein, called tissue-plasminogen activator (tPA), were less likely to become physically dependent on ethanol, a derivative of alcohol. The study suggests that the protein may alter the way key brain receptors work, leading to the dependence on and the sometimes violent withdrawal symptoms that alcoholics experience. The researchers, lead by Dr Sidney Strickland, believe that it might eventually be possible to block the reaction and reduce the risk of physical dependence. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences they said: "These findings identify a tPA-dependent pathway of neuronal activation as a potential drug target against ethanol-related brain pathologies." Previous research also found that tPA levels went up as a result of physical addiction to various opiates and the latest study examined whether the protein was related to any other aspects of addiction in the brain.

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