North Carolina State UniversityScientists at North Carolina State University seem to have found a genetic ‘switch’ in fruit flies that plays an essential role in making flies more tolerant to alcohol.

Apparently, this metabolic switch also has implications for the fatal liver disease cirrhosis in humans. A counterpart human gene may possibly contribute to a shift from metabolizing alcohol to the formation of fat in heavy drinkers. This shift could result in fatty liver syndrome which is a precursor to cirrhosis.

For the purpose of the study, the expert team was believed to have calculated the time it takes for flies to stagger due to alcohol intake whereas simultaneously recognizing changes in the expression of all their genes. They seem to have made use of statistical methods in order to identify genes that function together in assisting the flies adapt to alcohol exposure.

Senior author of the study, Dr. Robert Anholt, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Biology and Genetics at NC State claimed that the study seems to have potential clinical implications.

Dr. Anholt further said that, “Our findings point to metabolic pathways associated with proclivity for alcohol consumption that may ultimately be implicated in excessive drinking. Translational studies like this one, in which discoveries from model organisms can be applied to insights in human biology, can help us understand the balance between nature and nurture, why we behave the way we do, and – for better or worse – what makes us tick.”

While looking at equivalent human genes, a counterpart gene called ME1 appears to be associated with alcohol consumption in humans. Since, people with certain variations of the gene supposedly showed a tendency to drink stronger alcoholic beverages.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal, Genetics.