Alcohol can irreversibly damage the DNA of stem cells

  • The consumption of alcohol can damage the DNA of the stem cells and generate mutations that increase the risk of suffering from at least seven types of cancer: breast, intestine, liver, mouth, throat, esophagus and larynx.

There is scientific evidence that associates alcohol consumption with an increased risk of developing cancer; In fact, last summer, a report from the European Union of Gastroenterology (UEG) stated that its intake was directly related to the appearance of seven types of digestive cancers , among other diseases. Now, new research reveals that alcohol causes irreparable damage to the DNA of stem cells that can lead to mutations, and this could explain the close link that exists between this substance and the development of seven types of cancer: breast , intestine, liver , mouth, throat , esophagus and larynx.

In this new study, carried out by scientists from the Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Medical Research Council (United Kingdom), and published in Nature , it has been proven that if acetaldehyde – a toxic compound present in alcohol – is not neutralized by the defenses of the organism can deteriorate the DNA of the blood stem cells, permanently altering their DNA sequences, although these experts believe that the harmful effects of alcohol would be similar in other cell types.

The body’s defenses against alcohol

The researchers also studied the two natural defense mechanisms of the body against acetaldehyde, the first of which eliminates this toxic, while the second is responsible for repairing the damage to the DNA. The enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH) constitute this first defensive line and are responsible for decomposing acetaldehyde into acetate, which can be used as a strong energy. In a second phase, the cells have DNA repair systems, but they do not always work, or they do not work at full capacity.

The authors of the work used genetically modified mice to lack the enzyme ALDH, since it is known that about 8% of the world population has a hereditary deficit of ALDH2, especially in East Asia, which would help to understand what in countries like China is so prevalent esophageal cancer .

Mice lacking the natural defenses against alcohol, lost the ability to renew their blood after drinking diluted alcohol for ten days. By sequencing the genome of the stem cells, it was observed that their DNA had deteriorated four times more in comparison with the animals whose enzyme ALDH worked correctly.

The study’s lead author, Ketan Patel, has explained that his findings help to understand why alcohol consumption increases the chances of suffering from some types of cancer, and added that although they have also found that not properly processed alcohol increases this risk, even in the case of people who have mechanisms that allow them to process this substance adequately and repair the damage caused, these systems are not perfect and the danger of getting sick would remain high.

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