Female Brain May Be More Vulnerable to Alcohol Damage
> 7/23/2007 1:19:41 PM

Doctors Joel Hashimoto and Kristine Wiren from the University of Oregon bred mice in order to develop groups with different levels of susceptibility to alcohol withdrawal. But as sometimes happens with experiments, it was an accidental discovery rather than painstaking preparation that was of primary importance. They found that the breed of mouse did not influence withdrawal nearly as much as the sex of the mouse. Female mice suffered earlier and more extensive brain damage.

This sex difference is consistent with previous studies that have shown that women are more vulnerable to neuropathy, cirrhosis, and cardiomyopathy. For a long while, it appeared likely that there was a genetic difference between symptoms that the sexes experienced, but there was some disagreement. Dr. Daniel Hommer found evidence of a sex-disparity but, in the face of contradicting findings by Pfefferbaum, hedged that "it would be premature to state this conclusively." All of these studies used living human subjects, and so lacked the data that can only be gleaned by dissection.

Hashimoto and Wiren examined mouse brains 10 days after withdrawal for signs of neural degeneration in the lateral parietal cortex. There was significantly more cell-death in female brains. One possible reason is that ethanol-responsive genes were found to act differently in the male and female brain. In the male brain, these genes stimulated the ubiquitin pathway and anti-inflammatory responses while they elicited an inflammatory response in the female brain.

This finding is important because alcoholism, once considered a male problem, has become prevalent amongst females in the last decade. The National Survey of Drug Use and Health of the 12-17 age group found that in 1993 alcohol was abused by 31.2% of males and 23.7% of females, but that by 2002 both sexes had exactly the same rates of abuse at 43.4%. Women have caught up to their male counterparts when it comes to alcohol consumption, and they need to know that they may face damaging effects that men may not.


Variability is the law of life, and as no two faces are the same, so no two bodies are alike, and no two individuals react alike and behave alike under the abnormal conditions which we know as disease.
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Posted by: mike 2/26/2008 8:50:29 AM

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