Fly study to help treat addiction

Understanding the genetic make-up of fruit flies could be a key to treating addiction, according to research.

Genetics are thought to play a huge role in the development of alcohol use disorders — the genetic contribution to these conditions could be as high as 60%.

Now, scientists say they have discovered a gene that regulates how molecules respond to alcohol and have indicated it may help experts come up with new ways of treating those affected by alcohol abuse and addiction.

Researchers say the gene, Rsu1, is “pivotal” in affecting naïve and acquired preferences to alcohol, in both humans and in flies.

They found that flies lacking the protein made by Rsu1 had a high preference for alcohol. Those exposed to alcohol also displayed behaviours similar to those of humans.

Low doses of alcohol caused a lack of inhibition and increased locomotor activity while higher doses led to a loss of postural control followed by sedation.

The flies also displayed addiction-like behaviour similar to mammals.

The study was carried out by a team of researchers led by Prof Adrian Rothenfluh of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

The group also included Dr Arun Bokde, an assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin’s School of Medicine and at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience.

“The same gene in two different organisms is associated with alcohol behaviours. In this particular study the animal results led to the discovery of the influence of this gene in humans,” said Dr Bokde.

“This study underscores the need to understand the molecular mechanisms underpinning alcohol-related behaviours in humans. Knowing how these pathways work gives us some hope that we might design treatments to interact with the cellular pathways responsible for affecting our alcohol preferences.”

The findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.


Bryan Stevenson is the American civil rights lawyer who provided the inspiration for the newly-released film Just Mercy. Esther McCarthy spoke to him in IrelandReal-life lawyer Bryan Stevenson on inspiring Just Mercy

So I’ve booked my holidays. And before you ask, yes, I’m basing it around food and wine. I’ll report back in July, but I thought readers might be interested in my plan should you be thinking about a similar holiday.Wines to pick up on a trip to France

Esther N McCarthy is on a roll for the new year with sustainable solutions, cool citruses and vintage vibes.Wish List: Sustainable solutions, cool citruses and vintage vibes

They have absolutely nothing really to do with Jerusalem or indeed with any type of artichoke, so what exactly are these curious little tubers?Currabinny Cooks: Exploring the versatility of Jerusalem artichokes

More From The Irish Examiner