A group of 11 genes can successfully predict whether an individual is at increased risk of alcoholism, a research team from the United States and Germany reported Tuesday.
"This powerful panel of just 11 genes successfully identified who has problems with alcohol abuse and who does not in tests in three patient populations on two continents, in two ethnicities and in both genders," said Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator and associate professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
The panel of genes is highly accurate in its differentiation of alcoholics from controls at a population level, and less so at an individual level, likely due to the major and variable role environment plays in the development of the disease in each individual, the authors noted. Nevertheless, such a test could identify people who are at higher or lower risk for the disease.
"As alcoholism is a disease that does not exist if the exogenous agent (alcohol) is not consumed, the use of genetic information to inform lifestyle choices could be quite powerful," the authors wrote in the paper, published online Tuesday in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
"We believe this is the strongest result to date in the field of alcoholism and offers a comprehensive -- though not exhaustive -- window to the genetics and biology of alcoholism," Dr. Niculescu said.
Dr. Niculescu, attending psychiatrist and research and development investigator at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis, cautioned that genetic tests indicate risk, not certainty, and that "genes act in the context of environment."
Alcohol is legal, widely available, and subject to advertising and social pressures, he noted; but knowing one has a genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse could encourage behavioral and lifestyle changes.
The researchers incorporated data from a German genome-wide study of alcoholism with data from a variety of other types of research into genetic links to alcoholism using a system called Convergent Functional Genomics. The work produced a group of 135 candidate genes.
The researchers then looked at the overlap between those 135 genes and genes whose expression activity was changed in a mouse model of stress-reactive alcoholism -- research mice that respond to stress by consuming alcohol. The mouse model enables researchers to zero in on key genes that drive behavior without the myriad environmental effects that are present in humans.
The mouse model analysis narrowed the candidates down to the panel of 11 genes and 66 variations of those genes called single-nucleotide polymorphisms.
The researchers then determined that the panel of 11 genes could be used to differentiate between alcoholics and non-alcoholics (controls) in three different research populations for which genetic data and information about alcohol consumption were available: a group of Caucasian subjects and a group of African American subjects from the U.S., and a third group from Germany.
Many of the 11 genes also have been implicated as associated with other neuropsychiatric disorders including cocaine addiction, Parkinson's disease, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety -- not too surprising given that basic brain biology is involved, and links between such diseases as alcoholism and bipolar disorder have been known clinically for many years, Dr. Niculescu said.
Some of the genes also suggest possible future routes for treatment and prevention, including genes that play a role in the activities of omega-3 fatty acids, for which there is some evidence of control of alcohol consumption in laboratory tests previously conducted by Dr. Niculescu and collaborators.
Other researchers involved in this work were Daniel Levey, Helen Le-Niculescu, Mikias Ayalew, Nikita Jain, Brigid Kirlin, Rebecca Learman, Evan Winiger, Zachary Rodd and Anantha Shekhar of the Indiana University School of Medicine; Nicholas Schork of The Scripps Research Institute; Josef Frank and Marcella Rietschel of the Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany; Falk Kiefer of Heidelberg University; Norbert Wodarz of the University of Regensburg; Bertram Müller-Myhsok of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry; Norbert Dahmen of the University of Mainz; Markus Nöthen of the University of Bonn; Richard Sherva and Lindsay Farrer of Boston University School of Medicine; Andrew Smith and Joel Gelernter of Yale University School of Medicine and Henry Kranzler of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
More information about this research can be found at www.neurophenomics.info.
The research was supported by an NIH Directors’ New Innovator Award (1DP2OD007363) and a VA Merit Award (1I01CX000139-01), as well as by NIH grants R01 DA12690, R01 DA12849, R01 AA11330 and R01 AA017535, and by grant FKZ 01GS08152 from the National Genome Research Network of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Eric Schoch | Eurek Alert!
How to become a T follicular helper cell
31.07.2015 | La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology
Heating and cooling with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics
31.07.2015 | University of California - Berkeley
Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.
What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News
31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics
31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy