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A form of the alcohol dehydrogenase gene may protect Afro-Trinidadians from developing alcoholism

-Trinidadians," said Ehlers. "Individuals with at least one ADH1B*3 allele were found to have lower alcohol consumption levels and were less likely to be alcohol dependent. Thus, we have found that this allele is protective against the development of alcoholism."

However, the ADH1B*3 allele may also be a risk factor for liver disease. "Elevated serum alanine aminotransferease levels are a measure of liver dysfunction," said Ehlers. "Since having the ADH1B*3 allele presumably causes increases in acetadehyde when an individual drinks, especially at higher levels of consumption, individuals who have this allele and who nonetheless drink heavily could be at higher risk for alcohol/acetaldehyde-induced organ damage."

"These findings are likely to be most significant for African-descent individuals," said Enoch, "around a third to one-half of whom may carry this allele, as this study has shown that they have a reduced risk of developing alcoholism. However, it is important that they should not develop a false sense of security. This study shows that this particular ADH variant may be both protective for addiction and a risk factor for liver disease in African-descent individuals in the same way that another ADH variant, ADH1B*2, is both a protective and risk allele in East Asians."

"We still do not know what causes alcoholism," said Ehlers. "It appears that 50 percent of the disorder is genetic and 50 percent is environmental. Having the ADH1B*3 allele provides some genetic protection from developing alcoholism but it is not complete. Individuals can choose to drink at high levels in spite of having some protection against alcoholism just like individuals at high genetic risk for alcoholism can choose not to drink. There are no genes for alcohol dependence like there are genes for Huntington's chorea or other single-gene disorders. There are only genes that influence risk and protection for the disor
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25-Jan-2007


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