This may sound too good to be true, but scientists claim they have found a drug which could reduce the harmful aspects of binge drinking.
The drug is said to reduce brain cell loss and inflammation that is linked to incidences of heavy drinking. It is said that long-term heavy drinking incidences causes brain damage and triggers symptoms such as poor memory.
The team of scientists, based at the University of Huddersfield, believe that the drug may also be effective in treating Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause damage to the brain.
Binge drinking is defined by health experts as the consumption of double the recommended amount of alcohol in one drinking bout. The recommendation is that males should consume no more than three to four units of alcohol per day. This is equal to one and a half pints of 4% beer.
For females the recommended limit is two to three units, which is equivalent to 175ml of wine. This implies that a female, who consumes two large glasses of wine, equal to six alcohol units, within the space of one hour, would be defined as a binge drinker.
In their search for a method to reduce the harmful effects of excessive drinking, the team placed their focus on the effects of ethane-beta-sultam, a compound.
The chemical was given to rats that had been placed on a binge drinking programme.
The team found that the rodents that had been given doses of ethane-beta-sultam experienced a reduction in inflammation and the loss of brain cells.
The drug is termed a taurine ‘pro-drug’, which is a type of medication that easily enters the bloodstream prior to being processed by the body. One of the most profound obstacles in treating brain disease is the difficulty in drugs reaching the brain. This is due to the ‘blood-brain-barrier’, which separates the extracellular fluid in the brain from blood. It acts as a natural defence system for the brain.
However, the team of scientists discovered that ethane-beta-sultam had the ability to pass through and reach the brain cells.
The lead author of the study, Professor Page, based at Huddersfield University, said one of the main effects of alcohol is the destruction of some of the cells in the brain that are vital for orientation and navigation. However, he said that a combination of their compound and alcohol would overcome this problem.
His explanation is that the brain offers itself protection by the use of glial cells which increase upon exposure of the brain to alcohol, such as during regular binge drinking. He said a combination of ethane-beta-sultam being taken at the same time as the alcohol would decrease the levels of glial cells.
He added that his team have worked on this study for a decade to reach this breakthrough point.
Professor Page said their future aim is to find a compound that outperforms ethane-beta-sultam. He added that such compounds may possibly be effective in the treatment of illnesses, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, which result from a loss of brain activity.
He is expecting for there to be a discussion about the ethical issues surrounding the idea of drug which masks binge drinking effects. However, he stated that if one accepts that alcohol abuse is set to continue, it may be wise for society to try and find a treatment for it.
Image Credit: Alper Çuğun