dr dave hepburnBY DR. DAVE HEPBURN | MAY 18, 2011

Hangover gene

“The Nobel Prize for medicine this year, 1995, along with one million dollars goes to …  Drosophila Melanogaster!!” There was a tremendous buzz in the room as Drosophila flew up to the podium, dabbed at her compound eyes, thanked the thousands of children she’d hatched last week and accepted the award to massive applause, which almost killed her as she flitted back to her seat. Drosophila, the ubiquitous fruit fly, has been beloved by medical science, if no one else, for years.

Because of her short lifespan (two weeks) and predictable love life (she is a virgin for only 12 hours after birth) the fruit fly has been a mainstay of medical genetics for almost a century.

Most recently a recent study recently showed that Drosophila has showed that alcohol tolerance and hence alcoholism are most likely genetically controlled. It turns out that a few fortunate fruit flies can frolic in the fermented fruit longer than others. They have a gene actually dubbed hangover, an unusual name for a gene, given that most genes have names like K6H189r, sexy names if you’re a droid. This hangover gene allows the flies to tolerate alcohol without being affected and it is speculated that because they can tolerate the alcohol they therefore drink more and more until they finally end up at the bowl of peaches party wearing a lightening bug on their head while jitterbugging to the Beetles.

One of the risk factors in human alcoholism is the ability to tolerate alcohol when first starting to drink. Should this same hangover gene be found in humans, and it is felt that it will be, then the unsuspecting bearer of the gene will require more alcohol in order to reach the inebriation sensation that is apparently so sought after by would-be alcoholics and collegians. Because their genes make them feel that they can tolerate alcohol and drink their buddies under the table, they end up pouring more of the poison into their body, damaging their liver, nerves, heart and brain in the process, the brain damage being severe enough that they run for parliament.

Some scientists believe that there is not simply one gene involved in alcoholism but a series of genes that can predispose a victim to alcoholism.

Implications of finding such a gene or genes include:
1. Being able to identify a potential alcoholic before that first drink. “Mrs. Bloggins, you have a lovely baby but according to his blood tests you’d best keep a lock on Granny’s medicine cabinet.”
2. Leading to drugs that can target the genetic mutation; hangovercillin.
3. Alerting insurance companies to the risk of alcoholism. “Bloggins we will approve you for insurance but based on your wobbly pop genome, your premiums will be $387,000 per month.”
4. Being a defense in court cases. “My client did not intentionally drink and drive. According to his blood test he is a mutant.”

So before you go around labeling your husband a fat drunk, or to be more politically correct, a liquid grain storage facility, realize that in fact he may have genes that require him to drink more before he feels the effect, poor guy.

As for Drosophila I heard she used her Nobel winnings to buy a retirement place in an orchard where she will live out the rest of her day.

Contact Dr. Dave or read more at www.wisequacks.org.

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