It’s no breakthrough that chronic and heavy use of alcohol is bad for your brain. Heavy alcohol use can hinder a brain’s growth and can leave holes in your grey matter in a condition known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome but more commonly referred to as “wet brain.” Now new research indicates alcohol could be more damaging than previously thought due to its effects on brain stem cells.

The research team that made the discovery wanted to know how alcohol affected neural stem cells (NSCs) which are found in the brain and become specialized as needed. Dr. Ping Wu of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston experimented on mice with alcohol and made several startling discoveries. Alcohol was found to alter the differentiation of the brain stem cells in the tested mice and heavy alcohol use killed off the NSCs altogether. “The discovery that the adult brain produces stem cells that create new nerve cells provides a new way of approaching the problem of alcohol-related changes in the brain,” says Dr. Wu.

The effects of alcohol on NSCs were more pronounced in the female mice tested with the authors stating, “Ethanol females displayed more severe symptoms of intoxication and escalated in severity at a higher rate than males.” This discovery could influence how doctors and researchers conduct alcohol-related studies in the two sexes. There’s one simple conclusion from the study – alcohol is no good for your brain’s stem cells.

Diverse types of stem cells are found in distinct parts of the body, and these unique stem cells can perform different duties. Research into different types of stem cells has proven that all stem cells are important including the ones in your brain. You can save the stem cells in your brain by avoiding alcohol, but can you add stem cells to the body to heal an injury or repair an electrical pathway in the brain?

That’s the theory behind several types of stem cell research including the work of Kenneth Pettine of Northern Colorado. Pettine has pioneered the use of mesenchymal stem cells for musculoskeletal diseases and has led over a dozen FDA studies demonstrating the effective use of stem cell treatments. Pettine’s studies show that stem cells could help restore and repair our bodies and maybe on day alcohol-damaged brains. The more we learn about stem cells, the more we learn they’re critical for our current and future health.

To learn more about Pettine’s studies visit


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