Drinking too Much Alcohol Can Seriously Damage Your DNA

Kaduna Moves To Amend Law Prohibiting Alcohol Consumption

The study, which was published January 3 in the journal Nature, took a precise look at how exposure to alcohol, and the compounds that result when the body breaks down alcohol, cause damage to chromosomes in blood stem cells.

Doctors have previously linked alcohol consumption to an increase risk of developing seven types of cancer, but until now, exactly how alcohol causes DNA damage hasn't been really clear.

The study, which was carried out by the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University, has found that when the body processes alcohol it produces a chemical called acetaldehyde, which is harmful to DNA.

The research team also found that some people are more prone to alcohol-related DNA damage than other people.

In the study, the researchers used mice that did not possess either ALDH2 or FANCD2, or both, and gave them diluted alcohol for 10 days.

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"Drinking alcohol damages blood * a class="glink tt_basic" href="/page_1716.asp" rel="*page.asp?obj_id=1716&cAct=SIMP" *stem cells by altering their * a class="glink tt_basic" href="/page_1676.asp" rel="*page.asp?obj_id=1676&cAct=SIMP" *DNA, raising the risk of developing cancer, scientists have found. They learned that a byproduct of alcohol metabolism dubbed acetaldehyde turns into poison which can dramatically affect the drinker's DNA.

The study also discovered two ways the body counteracts the damage caused by alcohol, according to the news agency Reuters.

Sequencing the genome of the stem cells indicated that their DNA had been scrambled to the point that the cells no longer functioned. Researchers have explained why alcohol increases the risk of cancer. They then sequenced the genome of their hematopoietic stem cells, to find that their DNA had been badly damaged. The body usually reacts to too much acetaldehyde by trying to break it down into energy. The second mechanism springs into action after the damage is done and is comprised of "DNA repair systems that fix the damage when it occurs", he said. But they don't always work and some people carry mutations which mean their cells aren't able to carry out these repairs effectively.

"If we remove just the first level of protection, which is just the enzyme that detoxifies [the acetaldehyde], just giving [the mice] one big dose of alcohol is enough to initiate four times more DNA damage than in normal mice", Patel said.

Their study, which was funded by Cancer Research U.K., is published this week in the journal Nature.

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