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Mood disorders and alcohol use disorder are both challenging to treat. A recent study concludes that a pathway involved in both conditions could be positively influenced by a commercially available chemical.
The links between AUD and mood disorders were described decades ago. However, it has been difficult to tease apart cause and effect: Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can produce depression-like symptoms and, because alcohol alters mood, some people with mood disorders self-medicate with alcohol.
Recently, researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland set out to investigate novel ways of approaching AUD. Specifically, they studied a zinc-binding receptor called G-protein coupled receptor 39 (GPR39), which scientists had previously linked to depression.
The researchers behind the new study published their results in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
Some individuals are more likely to drink alcohol excessively than others; these interpersonal differences are not unique to humans. For instance, in a previous study, the authors investigated the effects in rhesus macaques.
The researchers showed that rhesus macaques with a natural propensity to drink more alcohol had reduced GPR39 activity. They theorized that a compound that enhanced GPR39 activity might reduce alcohol intake.