Proving Genetic Link to Alcoholism Gets Greater Study

By Goff, Karen Goldberg | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 7, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Proving Genetic Link to Alcoholism Gets Greater Study

Goff, Karen Goldberg, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

Getting closer to finding a genetic cause has been among the most significant areas of alcoholism research in the last few years and will continue to be a key area of study in 2001.

That is what National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) Director Enoch Gordis says in the NIAAA's "10th Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health." The 492-page report, updating the one last released in 1997, highlights advances since then in all areas of alcohol research - from its impact on traffic crashes to illness to prevention.

The effects of alcohol abuse - from traffic crashes to crime to illness - cost the United States an estimated $184.6 billion annually, the report states.

At the root of alcoholism may be a genetic predisposition combined with environmental factors. Scientists are getting closer to finding which genes are involved.

"The findings in the ongoing Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) are quite remarkable," Dr. Gordis says. "Researchers are making a concerted effort to find the genes related to alcohol. No one is saying it is all genetic, but genetics do play a role."

NIH's COGA study involves 987 persons from high-risk families. The most recent research indicates evidence that genes on chromosomes one and seven are involved in alcoholism, the report says. Another NIAAA study of 152 American Indians shows evidence of a gene influencing alcoholism on chromosome 11. Both studies reported finding evidence of a gene that was protective of alcoholism in the region of chromosome four.

"What they have done is find the genetic `hot spots' for alcoholism," Dr. Gordis says. "There are hundreds of genes in that area, but we are getting closer to identifying which genes. With the completion of the human genome project, I think in the next few years we will find the genes themselves."

When the genes are definitively located, there could eventually be medication formulated for persons with susceptibility, he says.

"We also will be able to better focus or prevention efforts," Dr.

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