Alcoholism that runs in families may have a stronger genetic basis than previously thought.
Researchers at Oregon Health Sciences University and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland have mapped three gene regions in mice that influence physical dependence on alcohol.
“We knew that alcoholism was inherited in humans,” said Kari Buck, assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience and lead author of the study.
“But this is first time we’ve been able to find regions in the gene that puts a mouse at risk, and we think there is a corresponding area on human genes.”
The results are considered especially reliable because recent advances in gene mapping have shown up to a 90 percent similarity between mice genes and human genes, Buck said.
Still, scientists have yet to discover the actual genes that contribute to alcoholism.
“This only identifies a risk factor,” Buck said. “So it’s not going to be a matter of saying you’re going to be an alcoholic.”
She said the work may someday help treat alcoholism and the abuse of other drugs. The findings appear in Thursday’s issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.