Let’s start this one by saying that they shouldn’t have given the rats alcohol in the first place. Seriously, the target is teenagers:
Specifically, alcohol exposure during adolescence reprograms the epigenome at an enhancer region called SARE (synaptic activity response element) that regulates the expression of a gene called Arc (activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein). This decreases Arc expression in both rodent and human amygdala, a region of the brain important in regulating emotional behaviors. How epigenomic changes at Arc SARE, upon adolescent exposure to alcohol, results in anxiety and drinking disorders in adulthood is unclear.
A new study on animal models by researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago published in the journal Science Advances (“Targeted epigenomic editing ameliorates adult anxiety and excessive drinking after adolescent alcohol exposure“) suggests gene editing may treat anxiety and alcohol use disorder in adults who were exposed to binge drinking in their adolescence…
In the current study, the researchers showed that this epigenetic reprogramming due to alcohol exposure in adolescence, which persists throughout life, can be reversed using CRISPR/Cas9 mediated gene editing in rat models.News, “CRISPR Edits Brain Epigenome to Reset Anxiety and Excessive Drinking in Rats” at Genetic Engineering and BioTechnology News (May 11, 2022)
Fine for rats, maybe, but for humans, Alcoholics Anonymous and Smart Recovery make more sense than gene editing.
Epigenetics chips away at the Darwinian edifice in the sense that the question of whether one “inherits” a tendency to drink too much alcohol may be obviated if epigenetics change cements the tendency long after fertilization.
The paper is open access.
You may also wish to read: Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!