When consuming the same dose of alcohol, the degree of intoxication in different people is always different. The thing is that intoxication depends on many external and internal factors. The same applies to the speed of sobering up, which varies from person to person. As you know, metabolism plays an important role in this process. But how exactly does this happen? Metabolism involves many different biochemical reactions that occur in our body. Many of them are controlled by special regulatory molecules, or hormones. It’s hard to believe, but in a recent study, American scientists managed to discover a hormone that is responsible for the speed of sobering up and even cravings for alcohol.
A hormone that helps you sober up quickly
Scientists have found that alcohol intoxication in the blood increases the level of the FGF21 protein, which is called “growth factor”. As you might guess from the name, protein affects cell division. However, such proteins often perform a double or even triple function. FGF21, among other things, monitors the energy metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.
Under different circumstances, this protein is synthesized by different tissues and organs. For example, it is produced by the liver as a result of starvation, and in the pancreas after overeating. In muscles, FGF21 levels may increase after strenuous exercise. Now it turned out that the level of this protein increases at the time of intoxication.
To find out what function the protein performs when intoxicated, scientists conducted an experiment on laboratory mice. The rodents were divided into four groups: perfectly sober mice; mice given a large dose of alcohol; mice given a high dose of alcohol and turned off the synthesis of FGF21; as well as mice that received an additional dose of FGF21 along with a large dose of alcohol.
All mice were placed on their backs. As it is not difficult to guess, sober mice immediately got up, since it is uncomfortable for them to lie on their backs. Drunk mice lay unconscious for almost four hours, like people who, when heavily intoxicated, can sleep for a long time in any uncomfortable position and in any place. But if the mice were dosed with FGF21, they woke up an hour and a half earlier. Mice, in which the synthesis of this hormone was turned off altogether, were knocked out for almost six hours.
How the sobering hormone affects the body
It can be assumed that the FGF21 protein accelerates the process of alcohol breakdown, that is, it provides a faster removal of alcohol from the body. But, as researchers report in the journal Cell Metabolism, that’s actually not the case. The scientists were surprised to find that the blood alcohol levels of mice in all four groups changed in the same way over time.
However, the scientists found that the hormone had no effect on the rate of sobering up in mice that lacked receptors for it in a specific area of the brainstem called the coeruleus. It is known that this department is responsible for attention, vigilance and an excited state of mind.
Mice whose receptors in the locus coeruleus worked actually remained drunk in terms of blood alcohol levels. However, they controlled themselves better, woke up faster and stood on their paws, could take the right position and listen to what was happening around. This means that FGF21 is not, in fact, a sobering hormone. However, it allows you to quickly come to your senses, that is, it returns self-consciousness.
Why do mice need sobering hormone?
It would seem, why did evolution provide mice with a sobering hormone at all, because they don’t drink vodka? In fact, mice, like many other animals, often find themselves drinking. To be more precise, they often consume fermented fruits, which contain a relatively large amount of alcohol.
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Obviously, FGF21 protects animals from excessive drinking, and also prevents them from becoming easy prey for predators. For humans, this hormone may be even more beneficial. However, it is not yet known whether it can be used for medical purposes. Yet the body of mice is different from the human. Therefore, final conclusions can be drawn after clinical trials. Earlier we said that the development of any drug takes about ten years, but neural networks can change the situation.