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Scientists discover gene linked to alcohol consumption

Researchers have identified a gene which appears to regulating the amount of alcohol a person consumes – people with the gene drink an average of five per cent less alcohol than those without it.

Image: Johnny Green/PA Wire/Press Association Images

SCIENTISTS HAVE IDENTIFIED a rare gene that appears to have an effect on regulating the amount of alcohol a person consumes – and they hope that this discovery could be used to develop treatment for people with alcohol-related problems.

A study involving more than 47,000 people, which was led by an international team of scientists, found that people with a rarer version of the gene AUTS2 – which has previously been linked to autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – consume an average of five per cent less alcohol than those who do not have it.

The normal function of AUTS2 is not known, however the gene is most active in the part of the brain which is associated with so-called “reward” mechanisms – and which responds to pleasurable stimuli and influences impulsive behaviour, Reuters reports.

The Press Association reports that, until this point, just one gene was linked to alcohol-related behaviour – which controls the breakdown of alcohol in the liver.

Co-author of the report, Professor Gunter Schumann, said the research was “an important first step towards the development of individually targeted prevention and treatments for alcohol abuse and addiction”, reports ITN.

The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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