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More Genetic Clues to Alcohol Abuse

Study identifies association between dependence and GABAA receptor gene

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- There's an association between alcohol dependence and the GABAA receptor gene GABRG3, says a U.S. study in the January issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

GABAA (gamma-amino butyric acid) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human central nervous system. Previous research has suggested a link between GABAA receptor genes and alcohol use and abuse.

This new study, which used family analyses to examine the role of a cluster of GABAA receptor genes, found one of them, GABRG3, had a consistent association with alcohol dependence.

"Our results suggest that this gene plays a role in influencing the risk for alcoholism," study author Danielle M. Dick, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine, says in a prepared statement.

The study finding supports the theory that a person's predisposition to alcoholism may be inherited as a general state of central nervous system hyperexcitability, which can be eased through the use of alcohol.

"It is likely that many genes that influence alcoholism act through indirect pathways. In other words, there is no gene that directly causes you to become alcoholic, but rather there are genes that alter your risk of becoming alcoholic. Accordingly, people don't inherit 'alcoholism' per se, but people inherit a genetic makeup that puts them at risk for developing alcoholism," Dick says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about the genetics of alcoholism.

SOURCE: Indiana University School of Medicine, news release, Jan. 14, 2004
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