Researchers Close in on Alcoholism Genes

Study locates smokers' drinking-linked DNA on chromosome 4

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THURSDAY, Dec. 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. scientists are honing in on the location of genes that influence drinking behavior in smokers.

The genes are located on chromosome four, in the same region previously linked to the start of problem drinking behavior, according to a study in the December issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Researchers analyzed DNA from 158 families that had at least two first-degree relatives who'd smoked 100 or more cigarettes in their lifetime.

"We looked for chromosome regions that had genes that affect patterns of drinking behavior," corresponding author Kirk C. Wilhelmsen, an associate professor in the departments of genetics and neurology at the University of North Carolina, said in a prepared statement.

"The locations with the strongest evidence were the same places that were previously found in other linkage studies looking for loci that affect alcoholism, although we found evidence that these loci affect drinking behavior less severely than for alcoholism," Wilhelmsen said.

He and his colleagues identified two regions on chromosome four and one region on chromosome two.

"Our work provides evidence that variations in genes in a particular region affect drinking behavior, which will encourage further work to identify the genes that are involved. When these genes are identified, and their normal function deduced, we will have a better understanding of the biology of drinking behavior. This may lead to new therapeutic approaches to treat alcoholism," Wilhelmsen said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more information about smoking cessation in recovering alcoholics.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Dec. 14, 2005

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