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Bacteria help trace how alcohol binds to brain

Bacteria that grows only on rocks in the Swiss Alps has helped researchers identify how alcohol might affect key brain proteins.

“Now that we’ve identified this key brain protein and understand its structure, it’s possible to imagine developing a drug that could block the binding site,” says Adron Harris, professor of biology and director of the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction at the University of Texas at Austin.

Harris and Rebecca Howard, an assistant professor at Skidmore College, co-author the paper that was recently published in Nature Communications. It describes the structure of the brain protein, called a ligand-gated ion channel, which is a key enabler of many of the primary physiological and behavioral effects of alcohol.

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