Study uncovers new genetic roles among people with problematic alcohol use

As part of a recent international study on alcoholism, researchers focused on the role played by genes and found that excessive alcohol use could lead to genetic predisposition for depression, insomnia, and substance misuse.

The findings, appearing in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Neuroscience, was based on the genetic data of participants residing in the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden.

The data, comprised of more than 400,000 people, was retrieved from three databases: the US Million Veteran Program, UK Biobank, and the International Research Forum Psychiatric Genetics Consortium.

In the genetic data, millions of different DNA variants were examined, comparing participants who excessively consumed alcohol with those who did not consume any. By initiating this form of examination, researchers could identify gene variants more prevalently uncovered among participants who engage in excessive alcohol consumption.

“We identified 29 independent risk variants, 19 of them novel. Problematic alcohol use (PAU) was genetically correlated with 138 phenotypes, including substance use and psychiatric traits,” the study’s co-authors determined.

“Phenome-wide polygenic risk score analysis in an independent biobank sample confirmed the genetic correlations between PAU and substance use and psychiatric disorders. Genetic heritability of PAU was enriched in brain and in conserved and regulatory genomic regions,” the findings explained.

As detailed in the findings, the risk genes spotted by researchers shine a new spotlight as to the genetic component implicated in the development of excessive alcohol use. Researchers hope these findings could contribute to the emergence of new drug treatment interventions for alcoholism.

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