It’s easy to get skeptical when you see the words “alcoholism” and “cure” in the same sentence. But scientists are continuing to pursue new ways to curb people’s drinking habits and are now putting a lot of faith in stem cell therapy research. According to new data coming out of Chile, these types of treatments have shown some very positive effects in laboratory rats and may soon be applied to humans.
Led by Dr. Yedy Israel, the Chilean team of researchers started their experiments by feeding rodents the equivalent of one bottle of vodka a day. Naturally, addictive tendencies began to weigh in on the animals and eventually they began preferring alcohol to water. The liquor diet continued for a total of 17 weeks, then dropped off entirely; forcing the rats to go cold turkey.
At this point, things began to get interesting. Dr. Israel’s team removed all alcohol from the rats for a total of two weeks. Then they were injected with mesenchymal stem cells and re-introduced to the vodka samples, now for just 60 minutes a day. It was at this point, as the researchers put it, that “miraculous behaviors” began occurring.
‘Typically, the animals would engage in binge-like drinking during this short period, consuming the human equivalent of about eight standard drinks,” Dr. Israel told The Daily Mail. “Animals that had received the small-sized mesenchymal stem cells treatment consumed much less, levels comparable to that of a social drinker.”
Their research showed that the injected rats always preferred water to vodka and dropped their alcoholic urges by up to 90 percent. Further studies showed that each treatment was effective for up to four weeks without any visible sign of a relapse.
Dr. Israel believed there was a scientific explanation for this that had to do with neurons in the brain. In binge drinkers, they argued, molecules called reactive oxygen species emerge and directly damage certain cranial functions (also causing inflammation). They believe that the brain adapts to this behavior by building proteins, which leads one to seek out alcohol to maintain the “toxic environment.”
“Brain inflammation and oxidative stress are known to self-perpetuate each other,” Dr. Israel concluded. “Creating conditions which promote alcoholism and a long-lasting relapse risk.”
All signs point to stem cells as a way to alleviate that risk. But, this report was quick to point out that no human testing has been performed yet. Let’s hope that’s on the horizon and, if this is an effective treatment, it gets implemented sooner than later.