[…] a new study published on Monday in the journal Nature Medicine. The gene therapy was tested on macaque monkeys over 12 months, revealing promising results.
At the beginning of the study, the monkeys were gradually given alcohol until an addiction was established. Then, they began self-regulating their own intake at an amount equating to roughly nine drinks per day for a human. The researchers separated the macaques into a control group and a separate group that received the gene therapy.
According to the study, the monkeys’ daily alcohol consumption increased over the first six months before an eight-week abstinence period was initiated. The gene therapy was applied by inserting two small holes in the macaques’ skulls, and researchers injected a gene that makes the glial-derived neurotrophic factor, or GDNF protein, which stimulates the amount of dopamine produced. Then the monkeys were given the option to drink water or alcohol for four weeks.
What researchers found astounded them. Just one round of gene therapy resulted in the test group reducing their drinking by 50% compared to the control group which didn’t receive therapy. Subsequent test periods used a four-week window of drinking and a four-week window of abstinence. With each round of therapy, researchers found the test group voluntarily consumed less alcohol after the abstinence period, and by the end of the 12-month study, that amount dropped by more than 90%.
However, researchers also found that the therapy could also influence other behaviors such as weight loss and water intake. The macaques in the test group drank less water compared to the control group and lost about 18% of their body weight
I want video of this lab!