A new drug could protect the brain from binge drinking

Researchers have created a new drug that could reduce the side-effects of binge drinking.

Professor Mike Page and his colleagues at the University of Huddersfield developed a new compound, ethane-beta-sultam, which enters the blood stream quickly so it can pass the blood-brain barrier before the body has the chance to try to deter it. Most drugs can’t get past this barrier, making it hard to treat neurological conditions.

A team of international scientists, including researchers from Huddersfield and London, tested the ethane-beta-sultam on rats that had been ‘binge drinking’ (and some people think animal testing is cruel…). They found that it reduced the inflammation and loss of brain cells usually associated with heavy drinking, which over time can lead to memory problems. This is especially risky for people in their teens and early twenties, as their brains are still developing.

The compound could form the basis for a treatment that inhibits the effects of binge drinking, especially in young people, although that’s controversial given that it might encourage addicts to keep drinking rather than seek help. But Professor Page takes a pragmatic approach: ‘If you accept that alcohol abuse is going to continue, then it might be sensible for society to try and treat it in some way,’ he says.

His team will now continue their research to see if they can find solutions which are even more effective. They’ll also look into whether ethane-beta-sultam or similar compounds could help neurological illnesses caused by a loss of brain cells, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Image via Mike Mozart’s Flickr.

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