Linking alcohol drinking patterns to specific genes

  • Researchers continue to search for specific genes involved in alcoholism.
  • A new study examines drinking patterns and related behaviors among alcoholics and nonalcoholics.
  • A gene on chromosome 1 may be related to patterns of drinking that coincide with higher anxiety-type behavior.

Researchers now know that alcoholism, like many other complex disorders, involves genetic vulnerabilities but they still do not know what specific genes might be involved. Adding to the challenge of genetic research is the variability in subgroups of alcoholics, variations that include differences in severity of dependence, levels of familial alcoholism, personality traits, and coexisting psychopathologies such as anxiety, depression, and antisocial behavior. A study in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research examines drinking patterns and related behaviors among alcoholics and nonalcoholics in order to develop quantitative phenotypes, which are subsequently examined for genetic influence.

"We were not simply looking for ways of characterizing people with alcoholism, but rather we were looking for different drinking patterns among individuals who had a variety of drinking behaviors - ranging from social drinkers to alcoholics," explained Danielle M. Dick, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at Indiana University School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Studying quantitative drinking patterns among a wide spectrum of drinkers, rather than focusing solely on alcoholics, may provide a helpful way to identify genes involved in alcohol use and problematic drinking. When we examined combined characteristics of individuals' drinking behavior, associated problems, and personality, we found evidence that a gene on chromosome 1 may be related to patterns of drinking that coincide with higher anxiety-type behavior."

There were four steps of data analysis for this study


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