A team of neuroscientists from the University of Texas have genetically engineered worms that cannot get drunk, regardless of the amount of alcohol they ingest. This development could lead to creating drugs that treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms and even block intoxication altogether.
The scientists were able to modify a "human alcohol target" that they implanted into a species of roundworms. There are many human alcohol targets which serve as molecular channels that bind alcohol to the body, which triggers intoxication.
"This is the first example of altering a human alcohol target to prevent intoxication in an animal," said the study's author Jon Pierce-Shimomura. "We got pretty lucky and found a way to make the channel insensitive to alcohol without affecting its normal function."
Other drugs such as cocaine have specific targets in the brain, while alcohol targets several channels. This causes the broad effects of intoxication and alcohol addiction.
"Our findings provide exciting evidence that future pharmaceuticals might aim at this portion of the alcohol target to prevent problems in alcohol abuse disorders," Pierce-Shimomura said. "However, it remains to be seen which aspects of these disorders would benefit."
The researchers believe this development will lead them to develop a drug that would allow, for example, spies to drink without becoming intoxicated.