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From genes to alcoholism

f development, and cell-to-cell interactions. For example, one gene implicated in this study--the AIP1 gene--is a known disease-related gene expressed primarily in the brain, where it helps brain cells set up and maintain contacts with the appropriate neighboring cells. Many of the nominated genes have been previously identified in other addiction research, providing support to the idea that common genetic variants are involved in human vulnerability to substance abuse.

The scientists, led by Dr. George Uhl, included Ms. Catherine Johnson, Ms. Donna Walther, Dr. Tomas Drgon, and Dr. Qing-Rong Liu. Their team developed, validated, and applied a new genetic platform that allowed them to generate the equivalent of more than 29 million individual genotypes and to analyze 104,268 genetic variations from unrelated alcohol-dependent and control individuals. The scientists used DNA samples that were collected by investigators of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), a study funded by NIAAA that included Dr. Howard Edenberg, Dr. Tatiana Foroud, and Dr. John Rice, who are coauthors of the paper. These samples had been analyzed previously to look for genetic associations to alcoholism, but the resolution and coverage achieved in the present study are unprecedented.

"The observations from this study provide a graphic display of the close relationships between genetic vulnerability to alcoholism and genetic vulnerability to other addictions," says Dr Uhl. "Ongoing and future studies will help us to identify how the variations in these candidate genes contribute to differences in addiction vulnerability."

"We know that vulnerabilities to substance abuse involve complex traits with strong genetic influences," adds Dr. Volkow. "Finding ways to identify who is most physiologically vulnerable to addiction will be a tremendous step towards more effective prevention and treatment approaches."

The term "genome" refers to t
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