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Friday, August 17, 2007

The Mouse Lush

Alcohol producers do not all regard consumption in the same way. For national brands, the more sold, the better--whether it's canned beer, boxed wine, or plastic-jug vodka. But specialty producers have a vested interest in the opposite--they want people to taste their product, not just use it to kill brain cells. They don't need to sell volume to stay in business, and they regard consequences of alcoholism with as much alarm as MADD.

Teasing apart the causes and effects of drinking is therefore something I expect craft brewers have a strong interest in, and a researcher at Idaho State may be able to help them out.
Fred Risinger never gives his eastern Idaho bar patrons a last call -- but then his customers are mice. Some are teetotalers who eschew the mouse-sized shots of alcohol they can obtain at any time simply by pressing a lever in their cage. Others Risinger describes as "your wine with dinner mice." And some are raging alcoholics, downing, in human terms, several fifths of liquor each day.

Risinger, an Idaho State University professor, said what makes the alcohol cravings in the individual mice different is the same thing that makes the alcohol cravings in humans different: genetics.

His goal is to find the right combination of drugs to short-circuit those genetic cravings that would lead the heavy drinkers, first with mice and then humans, to be able to turn away from alcohol.
Remember the old slogan?--"Schaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one." This isn't the attitude craft brewers want to encourage. It would be cool if alcoholism could be a treatable disease in the future.

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