Researchers at the Molecular Neurobiology Branch of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, have scanned the human genome for genetic telltales for the risk of developing alcoholism.
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 of 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.
According to the researchers, theses data could help understand the physiological basis of alcohol addiction and other addictions as well. Detemining the genetic vulnerability of individuals to alcoholism and other substance-abuse disorders can pave the way to more effective prevention and treatment methods.