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Hormone treatment makes alcoholic monkeys cut their drinking by half

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A hormone generated by the liver called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) causes alcohol-addicted vervet monkeys to limit their drinking by half, says new study

According to a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, a hormone generated by the liver known fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) reduces alcohol consumption in monkeys. When given an FGF21 analogue, vervet monkeys with a strong affinity for ethanol drank 50% less alcohol.

Scientists also looked at the brain circuits in mice and discovered that the protein, which is also known to reduce sugar intake, acts on various circuits to reduce alcohol and sugar consumption.

Senior study authors Matthew Potthoff and his colleagues found that giving an FGF21 counterpart to vervet monkeys with a strong intrinsic affinity for ethanol reduced alcohol intake by 50%. Even when given after extensive ethanol exposure, FGF21 and its counterpart reduce alcohol intake in mice and primates.

FGF21 affects neuronal transmission in the nucleus accumbens, a brain area involved in reward and addiction, and inhibits alcohol consumption via a subpopulation of neurons in the basolateral amygdala. FGF21 signaling in neurons that extend from the basolateral amygdala to the nucleus accumbens, in particular, decreases alcohol consumption by altering the activity of a subset of these neurons. This route has been linked to reward-seeking behavior in previous research. More research is needed, according to the scientists, to determine the exact effects of FGF21 on the activity of these neurons following alcohol consumption in animal models.

“Our results provide a mechanism for a liver-to-brain endocrine feedback loop that presumably functions to protect the liver from damage,” Flippo says.

“The central molecular and cellular effects of FGF21 represent an opportunity for future research, and the present data indicates that FGF21 analogues may provide a potential treatment option against alcohol-use disorder and related diagnosis.”

Source: 10.1016/j.cmet.2021.12.024

Image Credit: Getty

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