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British scientists prove the destructive properties of alcohol
Alcohol is unhealthy. This information shouldn't be new to most people. The World Health Organization gives alcohol the highest warning level in the group of carcinogenic substances. In experiments on mice, British scientists have now found out how dangerous alcohol really is for our body and why consumption is carcinogenic. The results of the research provide a simple explanation of how alcohol causes genetic damage.
According to the new research, alcohol has several effects on human health. When alcohol is broken down, the harmful chemical acetaldehyde is created. This chemical has the potential to damage stem cell DNA and, as a result, increase the cancer risk of seven cancers, such as breast and colon cancer. The results also provide information on how the body tries to protect itself against the harmful effects with the help of enzymes.
Why can alcohol cause cancer?
According to the scientists, acetaldehyde, an intermediate in alcohol degradation, can trigger DNA double-strand breaks. When the body tries to repair them, chromosome rearrangements can occur. This mutation in the stem cell genome triggered by alcohol is the cause of the increased risk of cancer.
In most people, acetaldehyde is quickly broken down in the body, but some people lack the enzyme to do so. Even with excessive alcohol consumption, the defense mechanisms are virtually out of action and cannot break down the harmful acetaldehydes quickly enough.
Tests on genetically modified mice gave the results
Scientists Juan Garaycoechea and Mike Stratton and their teams at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute conducted experiments on mice.
The mice were so genetically modified that they had no key genes for the removal of aldehydes and were thus helplessly exposed to the harmful effects of the alcohol. The mice had a lot of chromosomal rearrangements, which increased further when exposed to alcohol, which eventually caused the stem cells to die and the production of blood to be stopped.
More insights on the treatment of blood cancer
The research team also found that most of the stem cells that had suffered DNA damage died from activation of p53. The protein p53 can be measured in an increased amount in many types of degenerate cells. Removal of the p53 gene allowed most of the stem cells damaged by aldehyde to survive, but unexpectedly, this did not appear to result in major genome damage.
This new insight into the function of p53 in blood stem cells could explain why certain blood cancers become resistant to chemotherapy. (fp)