Alcohol consumption can be safe when done in moderation, but a new study shows that you can be putting more than we thought at risk by getting overserved.
“Alcoholism is a problem across the globe, and close to 100,000 Americans lose their lives each year due to complications centered around alcohol.”
Now, one wild night won’t do severe damage, but the prolonged heavy use of alcohol can cause complications in your brain that could prove severe later in life. Alcoholism is a problem across the globe, and a close to 100,000 Americans lose their lives each year due to complications centered around alcohol. If the risk of drunk driving, liver and kidney damage and addiction weren’t enough, we now know that alcohol can put your stem cells at risk as well.
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers have found that over consuming alcohol over a long period of time can kill stem cells in your brain. These stem cells are used to naturally replace damaged and aging nerve cells and also support cognitive function. This study led by Dr. Ping Wu uncovered the risk posed to these stem cells with alcohol use and may have offered new insight into the ongoing battle against chronic alcoholism.
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It was once believed that the brain had a set number of nerve cells when we reach adulthood and the store could not be replenished, but with continued study of stem cells scientists have learned that the adult brain can not only produce new nerve cells but contains adult stem cells that have the ability to differentiate into the necessary cell building blocks in the central nervous system.
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston study used male and female mice and exposed them to heavy alcohol use comparable to alcohol use in humans. They used a new technique called genetic inducible fate mapping that allowed them to identify and track neural stem cells to observe their progression, differentiation, and lifespan.
Female mice were more susceptible to neural stem cell damage from alcohol than the males and sustained more overall damage from the intoxication. There are three regions of the brain that have been identified as production and housing zones for stem cells, the subventricular zone, the subventricular zone, and the tanycyte layer. Using this study researchers determined that over alcohol consumption killed stem cells in at least two of these regions.
The reason behind the more severe effect of alcohol on females still requires further study and research to uncover. The researchers have proposed that the answer could lie in the difference in ethanol metabolite levels produced by the sexes. These ethanol metabolites help to break down alcohol in your system, and if females produce more of these metabolites than males, it could be the reason behind the damage and destruction of stem cells and the effects on the central nervous system.
This study is making incredible headway in learning how the brain distributes neural stem cells and how alcohol affects our ability to repair and replace cells in the central nervous system. The research is also shedding light on chronic alcoholism and addiction and may open up new possibilities for treating and combatting the disease. Looking at future benefits, the study of stem cells in our brain could help us better understand how these stem cells react and could open new possibilities for other neurological conditions and treatment.
Future studies are being planned by the team to further explore the effects of alcohol consumption on our brains, but in the meantime, you may greatly benefit by reducing your alcohol consumption as we learn more about how the substance affects us on a cellular level.
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