Scientists unravel genetic predisposition to alcohol
Apr 18, 2006 - 2:10:37 PM

Genes could be the reason for some people to drink high amounts of alcohol, says a study which could lead to a better understanding of alcoholism.

University of Texas (UT) researcher Susan E. Bergeson and others conducted the study with some animals that have either a high or low innate preference for alcohol.

The study provides clues about the molecular mechanisms that underlie the tendency to drink heavily.

Researchers used microarray techniques to study gene expression in the brains of these animals. Microarrays are powerful tools that investigators use for comprehensive analyses of gene activity.

The researchers employed novel statistical techniques to identify nearly 4,000 differentially expressed genes between the high and low alcohol drinking mouse strains and to narrow the focus to 75 primary candidate genes.

In addition, a comparison of the mouse data with human genetic studies revealed that genes with significant expression differences reside in chromosomal regions that previously were shown to be associated with human alcoholism.

Numerous pathways, as well as genes whose functions are currently unknown, may contribute to the genetic predisposition to drink high amounts of alcohol, notes Bergeson.

"Our results will allow us to begin to focus on targets never previously implicated in excessive drinking. For example, genetic studies have shown that chromosome 9 contains genes that may regulate alcohol consumption in mice. Our analyses allowed us to narrow our focus from thousands of genes in that region to 20."

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