A group of UK doctors suggest that genetic factors may determine those at increased risk of developing liver disease from drinking alcohol.Researchers at the University of Newcastle believe that certain genes trigger a strong immune reaction in response to alcohol which then damages the liver.
Dr Vander West, who is leading the research, says the work suggests directions for the development of treatment and help identify people at high risk of developing the disease.One in six heavy drinkers develop organ damage and teams in several UK centres are studying what makes this group particularly vulnerable.
Dr West's team has identified an antibody response to alcohol consumption which is linked to polymorphisms - genetic variants found in at least 2% of the population. The response was found in half of those with liver cirrhosis and was present in one third of those who did not have liver disease.
People who possess these polymorphisms appear to be susceptible to liver damage at lower levels of alcohol consumption. "Our study shows that individuals with genes favouring a strong immune response are those at most risk of alcoholic liver disease," Dr Day told the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases annual meeting in Dallas.