Researchers at the University of Chile have had a breakthrough that could ultimately lead to a cure for alcoholism. When the experts injected human stem cells into mice that had become binge drinkers, the animals cut their alcohol intake by as much as 90 percent within two days.
A team of scientists led by Yedy Israel fed study rats a diet of unlimited heavy alcohol until they became dependent upon it. The animals were drinking the equivalent of a bottle of vodka each day until the researchers took the alcohol away for two weeks.
In an interview with ResearchGate, Israel explained:
“At the end of this period, they were given alcohol for only 60 minutes a day. Typically, the animals would engage in binge-like drinking during this short period, consuming the human equivalent of about eight standard drinks.”
On the other hand, animals that received human stem cell injections consumed far fewer drinks compared to those who were left untreated. Israel explained that the alcohol intake of the treated mice dropped to levels that would be considered social drinking.
In fact, within 48 hours of treatment, the mice were drinking 90 percent less alcohol. While the control mice went right back to heavy alcohol intake, the study mice showed no signs of a relapse for the next four weeks.
The cells used in the experiment, mesenchymal stem cells, are found in human fat tissue and are known to have strong immunosuppressive properties.
Mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to stop the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are created in binge drinkers. These molecules damage neurons in the brain and promote alcoholism.
Even though issues related to alcoholism are much more complex in humans compared to mice, the researchers hope that the stem cell treatments will have a similar effect on people. They are currently developing human trials which will begin soon.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.