A new study claims to erase and manage conditions like anxiety and alcohol abuse via gene editing.
The brain has control over most things in our body. This pivotal organ is responsible for our moods, memories, thoughts, and so much more. Now, a new study suggests that it could be possible to give your brain a “factory reset,” as if it were an iPhone, and that this could help get rid of conditions like alcohol abuse and anxiety.
The study, published in the journal Science, focused on localizing the region of the brain responsible for the development of alcohol abuse and anxiety, showing how gene editing can erase or control people’s predisposition to these diseases.
Researchers from the University of Illinois based this study on previous findings that linked binge drinking in adolescence to altered brain chemistry, which could impact the way these people regulate their emotions, resulting in higher odds of having anxiety or alcohol abuse. The goal of their study was to use modern gene editing and figure out if these effects could be reversed.
The study was conducted on rats that were exposed to alcohol in their adolescence. Once the rats reached adulthood, researchers measured their levels of anxiety and their desire for alcohol by conducting different tests, including maze experiments and having them choose between different liquids.
Researchers highlighted the importance of adolescent drinking, which can lead to alcohol abuse later on and, more concerning, psychiatric disorders. They found that those who drink during their adolescence have less of a protein known as Arc. The gene-editing process is called CRISPR-d Cas9, and consists of cutting out DNA and allowing it to naturally replenish itself.
“Adolescent binge drinking is a serious public health issue, and this study not only helps us better understand what happens in developing brains when they are exposed to high concentrations of alcohol but more importantly gives us hope that one day we will have effective treatments for the complex and multifaceted diseases of anxiety and alcohol use disorder,” said the study’s lead author, Subhash Pandey. “That this effect was seen bidirectionally validates the significance of the Arc enhancer gene in the amygdala in epigenetic reprogramming from adolescent binge drinking.”
The brain goes through significant changes when people are going through their adolescence. It goes through complex rewiring and pruning of neurons, making it sensitive to outside substances, like alcohol and even cannabis.