Scientists Get Mice Drunk to Research Treatment for Life-Threatening Intoxication in Humans
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Scientists Get Mice Drunk to Research Treatment for Life-Threatening Intoxication in Humans

A group of mice gets drunk so scientists can research the effects a naturally produced hormone has on intoxication.  (Photo: Pixabay/Pexels)

A group of scientists has conducted research on a naturally produced hormone called FGF21 by analyzing its effects on drunk mice, according to a study published on Tuesday by Cell Metabolism. The study may suggest a treatment for life-threatening alcohol poisoning in humans.

Scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center carried out their research by giving a single “binge dose” of ethanol to both mice bred without the capability to naturally produce FGF21 and regular mice. From there, the two groups of mice were compared.

By taking note of the mice’s “righting reflexes” (such as their ability to get back on their feet after being placed on their backs), the group found out that mice lacking FGF21 remained drunk for longer than the regular mice.

Additionally, the group observed the effects an extra shot of FGF21 had on inebriated mice. Mice that were given an additional dose of the hormone sobered up faster than the control drunk mice by an average of about an hour and a half.

The study concluded that FGF21 counteracts loss of consciousness and coordination caused by alcohol and speeds up recovery from alcohol-induced intoxication. These “sobering” effects were determined to be the result of the hormone’s ability to activate the noradrenergic nervous system, a grouping of nerve cells in the brain that controls alertness.

The team’s graphical abstract. (Photo: Cell Metabolism)

While this study was conducted on mice and not people, the research suggests FGF21 as a possible treatment for life-threatening alcohol poisoning in humans. And, according to Gizmodo, other clinical trials have already studied the hormone for other potential applications. This lends credibility to FGF21’s possible safe use as a medicine in the future.

“Our studies suggest that FGF21 might be useful for treating the many patients who come into emergency rooms with acute alcohol poisoning,” senior study author and biochemist Steven Kliewer informed Gizmodo.

“Increasing alertness and wakefulness would be helpful both for preventing them from choking on their own vomit and for speeding up evaluation and treatment of other injuries.”

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Candie Getgen is the managing editor for Gin Raiders. Before immersing herself in the world of spirits journalism, Candie has been many things: a bartender, a literary journal editor, an English teacher — and even a poet. Now, Candie shares her passion for gin with the world and hopes to help others fall in love with it, too (if they haven't already!). When not writing, Candie enjoys sipping an extra-dry martini while painting or relaxing by the pool with a thrilling mystery novel.