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Rutgers receives $10 million in support of national efforts to track genetic causes of alcoholism

Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR) has received a $10 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to provide DNA extraction, basic genetic testing, and repository services for more than 46,000 saliva samples, in support of national research efforts to determine the genetic and environmental factors that lead to alcoholism.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alcohol abuse and its related problems cost the United States billions of dollars each year in lost productivity; illness; property destruction, violence, and crime; and social welfare administration.

The four-year grant will provide funding to the Rutgers-based repository to receive saliva samples from individuals across the United States. RUCDR will conduct DNA extraction and perform genotyping to explore genetic links to the behavior, and eventually distribute the samples to DNA sequencing laboratories that will generate whole genome sequences for each individual to more fully explore the biological connection to alcoholism.

Jay A. Tischfield, Duncan and Nancy Macmillan Professor of Genetics and director of the Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey, described the initiative as the largest NIH-supported whole genome DNA sequencing study to date.

"For the first time researchers will have robust epidemiological and biological information from large numbers of individuals so that they may correlate genetics to alcohol abuse behavior," he said. "The results will be used to formulate national policy and improve health care services."

Until now, large population-based research on the causes of alcoholism has been conducted mainly using sociological, behavioral, and limited biological data, Tischfield said. The focus of this study, which will begin collecting saliva samples in February 2012, is to identify environmental and genetic risk factors and attempt to determine how they are associated with harmful alcohol-related behaviors and abuse.

The NIAAA says that neither genes nor the environment alone can explain why any particular individual develops harmful drinking practices or alcohol use disorders and the associated chronic, often deadly, illnesses like heart disease, kidney, and liver failure and cancer that often follow. The risk of these conditions, it says, is an interaction of genes and environmental factors.

A major objective of the study, according to the NIAAA, is to determine the magnitude of the problem which will be invaluable in developing rational and scientifically based intervention and prevention programs.

Contact: Robin Lally
732-932-7084 x652
Rutgers University

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