There is good evidence from studies of families and twins that genetics plays an important role in the development of alcoholism. However, hundreds of genes likely are involved in this complex disorder, with each variant contributing only a very small effect. Thus, identifying individual risk genes is difficult.
Using a new approach that combines genome-wide association studies (GWAS) with information about which human proteins interact with one another, researchers from the University of Iowa and Yale University Medical School have identified a group of 39 genes that together are strongly associated with alcoholism.
"The discovery of these genes may open a new window into the biological mechanisms underlying this alcoholism disorder," says Shizhong Han, PhD, UI assistant professor of psychiatry and corresponding author of the study, which was published Nov. 21 in the American Journal of Human Genetics. "Eventually, it's our hope that the findings might help to develop drugs to treat or prevent this disorder."
Han and his colleagues based their approach for identifying risk genes on the idea that genes may be "guilty by association" of contributing to the disease -- that although many different genes contribute to alcoholism, these genes, or more precisely, their protein products, are not independent of each other.
"The proteins made by these genes could be neighbors, or they could be part of the same functional biological pathway," Han explains. "We took advantage of their biological relatedness to identify a network of genes that interact and together contribute to the susceptibility to alcoholism."
The team conducted the study by using two large data sets collected for the genetic study of addiction -- the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) and the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment (SAGE). These data sets document genome-wide common variants information from several thousan
|Contact: Jennifer Brown|
University of Iowa Health Care