Alcoholism is a known genetic disease, but we don’t know much beyond that or how to properly treat it. A recent New Atlas article discussed new work from the University of Iowa that sheds some light on the issue, and could lead to better treatments. They found that a hormone produced by the liver, known as fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21), is linked to increased alcohol consumption in humans.
The team conducted studies with monkeys and determined that monkeys with strong preference for booze drank about 50% less alcohol than the control group after receiving a synthetic version of the hormone. Tests with mice saw similar results, so the team investigated where FGF12 functions in their brains. They found that the hormone changes the activity of a subpopulation of neurons in the basolateral amygdala, which affects neural transmission to the part of the brain that deals with reward functions and addiction.