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Adolescence Binge Alcohol Consumption would affect the adult brain functioning

Researchers from the Neurodegenerative Diseases Laboratory at Universidad Autónoma de Chile published an animal study in Neuroscience demonstrating that Binge alcohol consumption in adolescents has negative long-lasting consequences on the mitochondrial functioning, which cannot be compensated in adulthood.

  
María Paz Ilabaca
By María Paz Ilabaca
Periodista Científica

12, August 2019

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Dr. A. Quintanilla, researcher at Universidad Autónoma de Chile and one of the authors of the article says: “Binge alcohol drinking is a well-characterized consumption pattern related excessive drinking (Over four alcoholic beverages in women and more than five in men) during a short period, followed by an abstinence period, which produces long-lasting abnormalities in the mitochondrial function in the adolescent brain. Mitochondria produces the energy in our body, and their dysfunction is associated with a growing number of chronic diseases, including memory disorders, that were possible to detect at later stages”.

The researchers simulated binge alcohol consumption in rodents; they found that this consumption pattern induced severe mitochondrial alterations in the animals' brains, specifically in the hippocampus, a region that is particularly important in the formation of new memories and is also related to learning. According to Dr. Quintanilla, these changes "are a silent damage and repeated exposure could trigger more serious long-term brain effects through alterations of the mitochondrial function,"

Furthermore, Dr. Quintanilla highlight says: "Our results show that mitochondria are extremely sensitive to alcohol exposure, and damage induced by binge alcohol consumption during adolescence cannot be repaired and remains until adulthood".

Damage in the cellular “batteries”
Mitochondria create energy to run the cell. They are often referred to as the cell “batteries" because they provide the energy necessary to maintain life in healthy conditions. Through a series of chemical reactions, mitochondria form adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a high-energy molecule that cells use to boost their internal processes, ATP can be described as a kind of energy “currency”. The researchers found that binge alcohol consumption in young people, reduces ATP synthesis and increases mitochondrial production of free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can cause cell damage and are involved in aging and associated diseases.

In addition, they found that the ability of the mitochondria to act as calcium buffers was reduced after binge ethanol consumption. Calcium is necessary to both energy production and neuronal communication (synapses). Stimuli that cause a mitochondrial calcium overload could lead to synaptic dysfunction and even neuronal death. These effects are like those observed in several neurodegenerative diseases, as well as in cerebellar strokes and heart attacks.

The research funding comes from an CONICYT Anillo ACT1411 grant (Grant provided by the Chilean government agency responsible for coordinating, promoting and aiding scientific research in the country), and was conducted by an interdisciplinary team formed by researchers expert in cellular metabolism and neuroscience, from Universidad Autónoma de Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación. The total budget of the grant is $ 450,000,000 CLP (more than 630,000 USD) for a period three years and to date is the only major Chilean scientific initiative for adolescent alcoholism research.

In deep…


Chile has the highest pure alcohol consumption rate per capita of Latin America, with 9.6 liters per year and is one of the countries that has one of the riskiest binge-drinking patterns worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Chilean youth (15-24 years old) drinks on average 8 standard drinks (around 112 grams of pure alcohol) each day of consumption.

María Paz Ilabaca
By María Paz Ilabaca
Periodista Científica

12, August 2019