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article imageNew findings into an alcohol dependence gene

By Tim Sandle     Aug 30, 2014 in Science
Scientists have linked a gene, already identified with alcohol dependence, with a neurotransmitter involved in anxiety and relaxation.
Last year, a consortium of U.K. scientists from 5 different universities conducted a research to study the effect of alcoholism on mice. The research suggested that mutations in the Gabrb1 gene (responsible for changing alcohol preference in mice) significantly made the mice prefer alcohol over water, unlike control mice who did not prefer alcohol.
This research also found that a variant of the Gabrb1 gene activates the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors: GABA and GABAA. These receptors control the pleasure zone in the brain known as nucleus accumbens. With an increase in the signal from these receptors, there is an increased craving for alcohol consumption.
According to a new mouse study, carried out at the The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), there is further evidence that the gene exerts its influence on alcohol intake through the regulation of GABA, and that this triggers the neurotransmitter to decrease anxiety and boost feelings of relaxation. The research concluded that the gene was critical in the transition from recreational drinking to alcohol dependence.
As well as studying mice, the researchers also explored variation in human genes using data from some 9,000 people and found the gene correlated alcohol-dependence risk and severity.
Lead scientist Vez Repunte-Canonigo explained the reasons for looking at specific genes and receptors in a research note: "Despite a significant genetic contribution to alcohol dependence, few risk genes have been identified to date, and their mechanisms of action are generally poorly understood."
The new findings have been published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The research is titled "Nf1 regulates alcohol dependence-associated excessive drinking and GABA release in the central amygdala in mice, and is associated with alcohol dependence in humans.".
In related research, a study indicates that targeting a molecular pathway involved with learning and memory helps rats which have been bred with an addiction to alcohol reduce their desire to taste certain chemicals.
More about Alcoholism, Genes, Genetics, Depression, Anxiety
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