London: Scientists have developed and tested a drug that could reduce the harmful side-effects of binge drinking.
Professor Mike Page at the University of Huddersfield in the UK and colleagues developed a compound named ethane-beta-sultam.
This is a taurine 'pro-drug' - an effective form of medication that easily enters the blood stream before it is processed by the body into its active form.
It is difficult for drugs to get into the brain because of the 'blood-brain barrier', the natural defence mechanism that protects the brain, but which also presents a formidable obstacle to the medicinal treatment of neurological illness.
An international team of researchers discovered that when ethane-beta-sultam is administered to rats on a 'binge drinking' regime, it reduces the brain cell loss and inflammation that normally result from bouts of heavy binge drinking, leading to symptoms such as decreased memory.
These effects can cause long-term damage, particularly to teenagers, whose brains are still in the process of development.
It has been shown how brain functions are impaired by alcohol and this is accompanied by inflammation and loss of cells in the brain.
However, the effects were reduced or returned to normal in the rats that also received the new compound ethane-beta-sultam.
"One of things that alcohol does is to destroy some of the brain cells which are important for navigation and orientation. But a combination of alcohol and our compound could overcome this damage," said Page.
He explained that the brain protects itself using 'glial cells', which are increased when exposed to alcohol in a binge-drinking regime.
"But a combination of our ethane-beta-sultam given at the same time as the alcohol decreased these levels of glial cells," he said.