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From genes to alcoholism

The most comprehensive examination of human genome with an aim to identify people most at risk for developing alcoholism has been done by the scientists at the Molecular// Neurobiology Branch of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health.

Identification of genes connected with substance abuse has been done with the help of the new genomic technology for the first time in this study. The December 2006 issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B (Neuropsychiatric Genetics) will have the article on this study. The report can also be viewed online.

"Tools such as pooled data genome scanning give us a completely new way of looking at complex biological processes, such as addiction," says Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health. "The ability to pinpoint genes in the human genome responsible for disease has the potential to revolutionize our ability to treat and even prevent diseases."

"Previous studies established that alcoholism runs in families, but this research has given us the most extensive catalogue yet of the genetic variations that may contribute to the hereditary nature of this disease," says NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "We now have new tools that will allow us to better understand the physiological foundation of addiction."

"This is an important contribution to studies of the genetics of alcoholism and co-occurring substance use disorders," adds Dr. Ting-Kai Li, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). "The findings will open many new avenues of research into common factors in genetic vulnerability and common mechanisms of disease."

NIDA researchers found genetic variations clustered around 51 defined chromosomal regions that may play roles in alcohol addiction. The candidate genes are involved in many key activities, including cell-to-cell communication, control of protein synthesis, regulation o
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