The effect of alcohol on the human body is known to everyone – however, even the most experienced and qualified neuroscientists cannot fully reveal the secret of what exactly happens to the brain during intoxication. It was traditionally believed that ethanol molecules directly affect the nerve cells of the brain, however, a new study by specialists from the Scripps Institute has shown that some other molecules are also involved in this process, making the process of intoxication and subsequent hangover more complicated from a neurobiological point of view. In particular, experts conducted several experiments on fruit flies, inducing ethanol to them.
Observing the flies, experts found that they also go through the same phases of intoxication as people do – however, along with this, experts also noticed a new molecular mechanism. At the moment when the ethanol molecules get to the nerve cells of the brain, an enzyme called phospholipases D2 comes into play, which combines ethanol molecules and lipids, creating an alcoholic lipid metabolite called phosphatidylethanol PEtOH.
Reviewing this enzyme, experts came to the conclusion that its construction and “piling up" in nerve cells in large quantities and leads to the subsequent process of their activation and movement, which is expressed in a hyperactive phase – however, after it comes the anesthesia phase, called so, because it is very similar to the effect of medical anesthesia. Thus, experts were able to more fully disclose the characteristics of the process of intoxication, which in theory will deepen understanding of this process.
And this, in turn, can help develop more effective anti-hangover drugs and types of therapies – because scientists say that the process, so indirect in its deployment, probably hides many more sides and interesting aspects, which they can only guess about. Whatever the case, soon the preliminary experiments on the first batch of flies will end, and the specialists will take up a more detailed analysis of what they managed to collect during the experiments.