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Alcoholism could be genetic

Photo: Alcoholism found in the genes of rats
Scientists in the US have discovered almost 1000 genetic differences in alcoholic rats.

Alcoholism could be genetic, a team of US researchers has found.

Scientists from Indiana University in Indianapolis have discovered almost 1000 genetic differences in rats that were bred to abuse alcohol, highlighting a strong genetic component to alcoholism.

Many of the genetic differences were found in critical DNA involved in the formation of memories and reward behaviour, according to the study published in journal PLOS Genetics.

So far, scientists have been unable to determine the genetic causes of alcoholism, due in part to confounding factors such as family drinking behaviours and varying social, economic and cultural norms.

Since many of the genetic differences found in the rats were in the part of the DNA that controls how often specific genes are 'switched on', not what the genes make, alcoholism may be a result of different quantities of specific proteins, the authors say.
"This research highlights that alcoholism (alcohol use disorder, or AUD) in rats has a strong genetic component and is influenced by many hundreds of genes, each with small effects," said lead author, Feng C Zhou said.

"There is no single gene responsible for AUD. However, critical regulatory pathways involving several of the genes discovered were found, suggesting that potential pharmacological solutions may be possible," Zhou said.

If similar findings can be shown in humans, it's hoped they could help find genetic treatments to treat this difficult disease and also predict those at risk of alcoholism.


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