Drunken, Mutant Mice Subject of Intoxicating U.C. San Francisco Study

drunk mouse.jpg
A study involving drunken, mutant mice and a DNA sequence researchers cleverly nicknamed "lightweight" may lead to a greater understanding of human alcoholism.

According to a paper penned by U.C. San Francisco researchers appearing in the current edition of PLoS Genetics, the "lightweight" mutant mice tended to drink more -- way more -- than regular rodents when offered the choice of water or booze. Yet, when injected with ethanol, they were knocked out cold for far longer than non-mutant mice. That doesn't sound like human behavior at all.

"Lightweight" mice are also "mildly hyperactive when exposed to a novel environment and are smaller than wild-type animals." It's amazing how much you can learn about human drunkenness from abnormal mice.

The "lightweight" mice share the gene unc-79 with humans, though it is not yet known if this gene is also responsible for drunken behavior and alcoholism in mankind.

"Nobody has ever studied these genes in humans before," notes research leader professor David Speca of UCSF's Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center. "There's a chance that they are part of a new and relatively unexplored biochemical pathway that may tell us something about human susceptibility to alcoholism."

No news on whether lightweight mice grew maudlin, became overly affectionate, or careened about drunkenly in their rodent wheels.

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