Stem cells slashed alcoholism rates in rats. Can it do the same for humans?

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells with the ability to transform, as required, into many different types of cell in the body. They have previously been responsible for a number of major medical breakthroughs, doing everything from restoring sensation to people with paralysis to enabling almost blind people to read again. Now a new study from researchers at the University of Chile has another application for them: Helping fight alcoholism.

In clinical trials, the researchers found that one dose of human mesenchymal stem cells injected intravenously into rats significantly reduced the amount of alcohol they would willingly imbibe. Within 48 hours of treatment, the rats — which were previously downing the size-adjusted equivalent of a bottle of vodka per day — reduced their alcohol intake by up to 90 percent. The effects of one dose lasted up to five weeks.

“Alcohol use disorders constitute a leading cause of morbidity and premature mortality worldwide,” Dr. Fernando Ezquer, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “Several studies in humans and rodents have shown that chronic alcohol consumption leads to an increase in inflammatory cytokines, both in the periphery and the brain, and this alcohol-induced neuroinflammation remains up-regulated for long periods even after discontinuation of alcohol consumption. This phenomenon perpetuates alcohol consumption and is also associated with a marked increase in the risk of relapse in abstinent patients. Drugs currently available for alcoholics patients have very low effectiveness and are not focused in reducing neuroinflammation.”

Cell therapy based on mesenchymal stem cells is increasingly emerging as a clinical option for diseases in which this type of neuroinflammation occurs. Ezquer said that, in the case of this study, the stem cells work as a combination of an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant medication which could greatly reduce alcohol intake.

“We have proved efficacy and safety using rats [selectively] bred as alcohol consumers,” Ezquer continued. “This is a very robust animal model of alcoholism since these rats consume the equivalent in humans of over one bottle of vodka every day. We believe that in humans presenting an alcohol use disorder, this type of cell therapy may reasonably be used in conjunction with a cognitive-behavioral intervention. For other diseases, over 1,200 patients have received this type of cells.”

The researchers are currently harvesting small nano-particles which are shed by mesenchymal stem cells. These could then be administered as an intranasal spray. The team is also on the lookout for clinical partners interested in transferring these studies to humans.

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.

Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.
Emerging Tech

Ant-inspired walking robot navigates without GPS by using polarized light

What do you get if you cross Boston Dynamics and Ant-Man? You get Antbot, a robot from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) which uses ant-like navigation to move around without the aid of GPS.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.