Alcohol Addiction: Researchers Identify New Gene Network Which May Determine Dependence
Costa Mesa, CA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/02/2015 -- Researchers at the University of Texas Austin successfully identified a genetic network which appears to determine alcohol dependence, according to a recent publication in the Imperial Valley News. Findings from the researchers appeared in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry. The research results are likely to help alcohol addiction treatment professionals heal patients, as well as opening a new possibility to screen people for alcoholism.
Support for the research came from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, or NIAA, while funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009.
To find the network, the UT Austin researchers looked at the genetic profiles of brain tissue from patients with alcohol dependency and compared it to the genes of patients who had no dependency. The researchers found a set of genes which tended to be "co-expressed together" in patients who consumed the largest amount of alcohol in the study. These genes in particular were linked to patients who struggled to the greatest degree against alcohol dependency.
The research provides the "most comprehensive picture" so far available of which gene sets trigger alcoholism, according to UT Austin Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research director R. Adron Harris. Scientists now have a "much clearer picture" with respect to how traits connected to alcoholism overlap with expressions in the body's genetic code.
Alcoholism has been known to have a genetic link for some time, but this research represents the first time scientists have used bioinformatics technology to attack the problem. The technology was able to identify the specific group of genetic proteins which, when expressed together, are extremely well correlated to alcohol dependence.
There are currently just three FDA approved drugs for alcoholism. The researchers therefore hope that the information they have identified will help serve as a stepping stone that allows doctors to screen patients for potential alcoholism before they trigger the disease by drinking. The researchers envision their model as a "type of Wikipedia" for alcohol dependence, which helps break down the disease's complexity and which might become a reference for future drug therapy research.
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