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Scientists Discover Gene Network Linked to Alcohol Abuse

First Posted: Dec 02, 2014 08:39 AM EST
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Scientists may have discovered the gene network responsible for alcohol abuse. They've identified a network of genes that appear to work together that influence alcohol dependence. The new findings could potentially help lead to future treatments and therapies for alcoholics.

Scientists have known for a while that genetics play a role in alcoholism and addiction. But the tendency for dependence to be genetically linked is more complicated than the presence or absence of any one gene. That's why scientists used bioinformatics technology of RNA sequencing to identify the specific group of different genes that are linked to alcohol dependence.

By comparing patterns of genetic code from the brain tissue of alcoholics and nonalcoholics, the researchers discovered a set of genes co-expressed together in the individuals who had consumed the most alcohol. Specifically, certain sets of genes were strongly linked as networks in alcoholics, but not in nonalcoholics.

"This provides the most comprehensive picture to date of the gene sets that drive alcohol dependence," said Adron Harris, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We now have a much clearer picture of where specific traits related to alcohol dependence overlap with specific expressions in genetic code."

The findings may potentially help researchers develop treatments for alcoholics in the future. By identifying genetic factors and networks in the brains of alcoholics, drug researchers can potentially target specific areas for treatment.

"We hope our model can serve as a type of Wikipedia of alcohol dependence, helping to break down the complexities of alcohol dependence and becoming a reference for future research into drug therapies," said Sean Farris, lead author of the new study.

The findings are published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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