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Drug may limit appetite for alcohol

Researchers believe that some cancer drugs could be used to help alcoholics fight their addiction after looking at a gene known as "happy hour".

The gene, first seen in flies, is known to affect animals' sensitivity to alcohol and now scientists believe that cancer drugs could also be used as treatments for alcoholism. The gene blocks a protein that stimulates cell growth and also plays a role in cancer, called epidermal growth factor.

The study, published in the journal Cell, was completed in the US, and found that mice and rats given Tarceva grew more sensitive to alcohol and as a result consumed less alcohol, even when it was freely available to them.

"This is a very powerful example of how simple model organisms - and the little fruit fly in particular - can be used to move quickly from an unknown gene to a potential therapy for drug addiction," said Dr Ulrike Heberlein, from the University of California at San Francisco.

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