What Could Scientists Learn From Studying Ozzy Osbourne's Body?

When you open a dictionary and look up the word "immoderation," a picture of former Black Sabbath frontman turned reality TV show starOzzy Osbourne probably should be next to the definition. The Amazon.com "Look Inside This Book!" index of the 61-year-old rock star's autobiography, "I Am Ozzy," contains 39 citations for the word "drinking," and 43 for "drugs."
Over the years, Ozzy's consumption of alcohol grew so alarming that even his elderly grandmother, the one with her husband's initials tattooed on her arm, beat him with a rolled-up copy of the Mirror, a British tabloid, in an effort to get him to stop. But he was an equally voracious consumer of controlled substances, until he reached the point where "I'd developed such a tolerance to all the drug taking, (that) I had to overdose to get high...I was getting my stomach pumped every other week."
On one occasion, for example, after convincing a New York physician to prescribe him a bottle of codeine cough syrup, he chugged down the entire bottle. "I nearly went into respiratory arrest," he recalled in his memoir. "All I remember is lying in this hospital bed, sweating and feeling like I was suffocating, and the doc telling me that if you take too much codeine, your brain stops telling your lungs to work. I was lucky to survive."

But somehow, unlike many other rock luminaries -- from Jimi Hendrix to Dee Dee Ramone -- Osbourne's body survived the toxic onslaught to which he subjected it. The now-sober singer's almost preternatural resilience has prompted researchers to sequence and analyze his genome, in an effort to figure out if there is a genetic explanation for why he is still living.
The Times, a UK newspaper that also, improbably, is about to begin publishing a weekly health advice column penned by Osbourne, reports that "it is hoped the results will provide insights into the way that drugs are absorbed into the body."
"Sequencing and analysing individuals with extreme medical histories provides the greatest potential scientific value," Nathan Pearson told the Times. He is director of research at Knome, a Massachusetts company that will map the singer's genome using a blood sample. Knome also is studying the genetic blueprints of other famous individuals, from historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr., to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, and chef Mario Batali.
Osbourne has called himself "a medical miracle" and even hopes to donate his body to science after his death, so that it can be dissected by researchers.
"When I die, I should donate my body to the Natural History Museum," an article on SFGate.com quotes him as saying. " It's all very well going on a bender for a couple of days but mine went on for 40 years. At one point, I was knocking back four bottles of cognac a day, blacking out, coming to again and carrying on."
That's not to say that Osbourne always has appeared to be the picture of health. For years, he has struggled with hand tremors, stuttering, and motor control problems that caused him to hunch over when he walked. Many assumed that his drug and alcohol abuse were to blame. But, as a 2003 article on the MTV website explains, the singer's symptoms were actually caused by a neurological disease, similar to Parkinson's, that he apparently inherited from his mother's lineage. After the condition was diagnosed correctly by a Boston neurologist, proper medication helped ease the tremors and other problems, according to the article.
Scientists already know that addiction to drugs and alcohol can have a genetic component, according to the University of Utah's Genetic Science Learning Center. For example, research shows that the A1 allele of the dopamine receptor gene DRD2 is more common in people addicted to alcohol or cocaine. Conversely, people with two copies of the ALDH*2 gene variation rarely develop alcoholism.

Source : science.discovery



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