Females more prone to brain damage from alcohol abuse

PORTLAND, Ore. - Alcoholism has traditionally been considered a male disease because there are many more alcoholic males than females.

But a new study by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center suggests that women are more prone to brain damage from alcohol abuse than men.

The study led by Kristine Wiren, Ph.D., associate professor of behavioral neuroscience and medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, and research biologist, PVAMC Research Service, found that female mice are more susceptible to neurotoxic effects of alcohol withdrawal, including significantly increased brain cell death, than male mice. It also found the gender difference exists whether the animals are prone to severe withdrawal due to a genetic predisposition, or resistant to it.

Wiren said she was surprised by the results.

"We designed the experiment to be able to identify gene expression differences between lines of mice that are genetically selected for severe alcohol withdrawal compared with mice that are resistant to alcohol withdrawal," Wiren said. "I thought there would be a difference between the genders, but I didn't think it would be the most important thing."

She added, "The withdrawal severity phenotypes do show some differences, but they're subtle."

The study appears in the online edition of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Wiren and Joel Hashimoto, research associate of behavioral neuroscience at OHSU and the PVAMC Research Service, examined four groups of selectively bred mice: two female groups, including one prone to severe withdrawal and one resistant to severe withdrawal, and two similar male groups. Four control groups also were used.

Using DNA microarray or "gene chip" analysis, a laboratory process involving advanced robotics that allows large numbers of genes and their complex interactions to be observed, Wiren and Hashimoto examined 5,00

Contact: Jonathan Modie
Oregon Health & Science University

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