Alcohol consumption is known to raise the risk of certain cancers, but exactly how alcohol causes cells to stagger toward malignant fates is often unclear. To find ways of keeping cells on the straight and narrow, scientists based at MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, used mice to show how alcohol exposure leads to permanent genetic damage. In particular, the scientists found that acetaldehyde, an endogenous and alcohol-derived metabolite, can break and damage
Although alcohol isn't thought to cause blood cancers, blood stem cells offer a valuable way for scientists to investigate what's happening to the
“Some cancers develop due to
Prof. Patel is the senior author of a new study (“Alcohol and Endogenous Aldehydes Damage Chromosomes and Mutate Stem Cells”) that appeared January 3 in the journal Nature. This article describes how acetaldehyde causes
“We combined transplantation of single haematopoietic stem cells with whole-genome sequencing to show that this damage occurs in stem cells, leading to deletions and rearrangements that are indicative of microhomology-mediated end-joining repair,” the article's authors wrote. “Moreover, deletion of p53 completely rescues the survival of aldehyde-stressed and mutated haematopoietic stem cells, but does not change the pattern or the intensity of genome instability within individual stem cells.”
Much previous research looking at the precise ways in which alcohol causes cancer has been done in cell cultures. But in this study, researchers gave diluted alcohol to mice. They then used chromosome analysis and
The study also examined how the body tries to protect itself against damage caused by alcohol. The first line of defense is a family of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). These enzymes break down harmful acetaldehyde into acetate, which our cells can use as a source of energy.
Worldwide, millions of people, particularly those from Southeast Asia, either lack these enzymes or carry faulty versions of them. So, when they drink, acetaldehyde builds up which causes a flushed complexion, and also leads to them feeling unwell.
In the study, when mice lacking the critical ALDH enzyme, ALDH2, were given alcohol, it resulted in four times as much
The second line of defense used by cells is a variety of
“Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related