Novel cure of alcoholism using short hairpin RNA

A gene therapy that causes unpleasant side effects is seen as a novel cure for alcoholism. While the current fight in America is against opioids, the dangers of alcohol are no less. It is one of the most addictive substances and according to researchers, accountable for 5.9 percent of all deaths. Costing America no less than $250 billion in terms of person-hours, productivity and health care, alcoholism is an evil no less than opioids. The study pointed out that though medications such as naltrexone, disulfiram, and acamprosate are legally approved to treat alcoholism, they are not very popular because of their side effects. Most patients are reluctant to comply. Therefore, there is an inherent need for new cures. Anamaria C. Sanchez from the University of Chile, Santiago, conducted the research along with R. Jude Samulski, from the University of North Carolina, which got published in the journal Human Gene Therapy in June 2017.

Primarily, the metabolism of alcohol takes place in the liver, which is a complex process. The ethanol in alcohol first undergoes oxidation to form acetaldehyde. An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) plays an important role in the entire process. ALDH2, which is a mitochondrial isoform of the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, converts acetaldehyde into an acetate. According to the study, nearly 50 percent of Asians have “one copy of the normal ALDH2 gene and one mutant copy of the gene that encodes an inactive enzyme.” People belonging to this group have less capacity for metabolizing acetaldehyde. Apparently, all alcohol that is not metabolized accumulates in the blood causing a person experience physical symptoms like dizziness, hypotension, facial flushing and palpitations.

Recognizing that ALDH2 is essential for treating alcohol dependence and addiction, the research team developed a short hairpin RNA (shRNA) or vector—which is an artificial RNA molecule with a tight hairpin bend which is used for silencing target gene expression. The researchers tested the shRNA in specially-developed ALDH2-expressing human liver cell line and in HepG2 liver cancer cells. They found that “In both cell lines, ALDH2 RNA levels were reduced by 90% and protein expression was inhibited by 90% and 52%, respectively, 5 days post infection.”

Treatment for alcoholism

For those who believe that taking medications is akin to trading one form of addiction with another, there are other experiential treatments such as mutual support groups and therapies that not only provide support during recovery, but also encourage patients to engage with other people, share experiences and willingly quit drinking. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) help people in developing life skills required for turning over a new leaf.

There are also other tools beneficial in treating alcohol-related disorders. These are:

Motivational enhancement therapy: This primarily addresses the ambivalence that people face about attending treatment and coming out of their addiction. A short-term program, the primary objective is to strengthen the inner resolve to quit or reduce drinking.

Marital and family counseling: This therapy involves one’s spouse and family in the therapeutic healing process. Compared to individual counselling sessions, the involvement of a supportive circle of loved ones betters the chances of abstinence.

Road to recovery

The secret to healthy and happy life is staying away from alcohol. But sometimes, despite knowing the ill effects, those addicted are not able to take the decision and embrace sobriety. It becomes inevitable for the family members to provide them professional support and gain their commitment towards the recovery process.

If you or your loved one is battling alcohol addiction, the Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline can provide information on some of the renowned facilities for alcohol addiction treatment in Florida. Call at our 24/7 helpline 866-220-5381 or chat online with one of our treatment specialists to know more about various alcohol rehabilitation centers in Florida where recovery is facilitated in a safe and compassionate environment.

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