By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas, July 16 (Reuters) - Mutant worms generated at a lab at the University of Texas may provide a pathway to prevent people from becoming intoxicated after drinking alcohol, a study released on Wednesday said.
The research could lead to new drugs to help people going through alcohol withdrawal or even prevent them from feeling the effects of a night of hard drinking, the scientists who wrote the study said.
"This is the first example of altering a human alcohol target to prevent intoxication in an animal," said co-author Jon Pierce-Shimomura, an assistant professor in the university's College of Natural Sciences.
Pharmaceutical applications could include a "James Bond drug" that would help a spy drink an opponent under the table and walk away without being shaken or stirred, according to Pierce-Shimomura.
The team found in worms a mutation on a channel for neurons, called the BK channel, that does not allow alcohol to have intoxicating effects, according to the findings published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
They were then able to recreate the mutation on a similar channel found in humans.
The type of worm used in the study indicates alcohol intoxication well by slowing their crawling and reducing their wriggling from side to side. Intoxicated worms also stopped laying eggs, the study said.
"We got pretty lucky and found a way to make the channel insensitive to alcohol without affecting its normal function," said Pierce-Shimomura. (Editing by Eric Walsh)