SAN FRANCISCO -- Researchers found a gene responsible for drunkenness in worms after plying thousands of the tiny creatures with booze, a discovery that could boost the fight against alcoholism.
The experiment was conducted by University of California at San Francisco researchers and was to be published today in the science journal Cell.
Because it is believed that alcohol affects all animals similarly, humans, like worms, might also possess a single gene responsible for drunkenness.
"Our end goal is to find a way to cure alcoholism and drug abuse," Dr. Steven McIntire said. "We hope to develop effective therapeutics to improve the ability of people to stop drinking."
After six years on the project, McIntire can spot an intoxicated worm about as well as a highway trooper can spot a drunken driver.
He and the other scientists dosed hundreds of thousands of worms with enough alcohol that they would be too drunk to drive legally -- if they were human with the same blood-to-alcohol levels.
The drunken worms moved more slowly and awkwardly than sober ones, and laid fewer eggs.