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Gene decides alcohol addiction risk

Posted on Aug 28 2014 | IANS

New York, Aug 28 : What has alcohol addiction got to do with genes? A lot, researchers say.

A study indicates that a specific signaling pathway can be associated with the risk and severity of alcohol dependence.

This signaling pathway is regulated by a gene called neurofibromatosis type 1 (Nf1) which scientists found is linked with excessive drinking in mice.

The new research shows Nf1 regulates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) - a neurotransmitter that lowers anxiety and increases feelings of relaxation.

The team further analysed data on human variations of the Nf1 gene from nearly 9,000 people.

The results showed an association between the gene and alcohol-dependence risk and severity.

"This novel study provides insights into the cellular mechanisms of alcohol dependence.

"Importantly, it also offers a correlation between rodent and human data," said Marisa Roberto, an associate professor at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in California.

While testing several behavioural models in mice, researchers found that mice with functional Nf1 genes steadily increased their ethanol intake starting after just one episode of withdrawal.

Conversely, mice with a partially deleted Nf1 gene showed no increase in alcohol consumption.

"A better understanding of the molecular processes involved in the transition to alcohol dependence will foster novel strategies for prevention and therapy," added co-author Pietro Paolo Sanna, an associate professor at TSRI.

The paper appeared in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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