Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have identified a network of genes that may help determine alcohol dependence, which they believe could lead to future treatments and therapies for alcoholism.
The findings, being published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, compared patterns of genetic code from the brain tissue of alcoholics to those of nonalcoholics. Researchers found a particular set of genes were strongly linked as networks in alcoholics but not in nonalcoholics, according to a news release.
“This provides the most comprehensive picture to date of the gene sets that drive alcohol dependence,” R. Adron Harris, director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research, said in the news release.
“We now have a much clearer picture of where specific traits related to alcohol dependence overlap with specific expressions in genetic code,” he said.
Scientists have previously linked genetics to alcoholism and addiction, and have known that it is more complicated than the presence or absence of a gene. However, according to the news release, the new findings mark the first time that revolutionary bioinformatics technology of RNA sequencing has been used to identify the specific group of genes that, when expressed together, are highly correlated with alcoholism.
“We hope our model can serve as a type of Wikipedia of alcohol dependence, helping to break down the complexities of alcohol dependence and becoming a reference for future research into drug therapies,” Sean Farris, lead author of the study, said in the news release.
Researchers say the findings give them more information to work from and may lead to better screenings to evaluate a person’s risk factors for alcohol dependence.