YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and news from the
health world

Alcoholism strongly linked to specific gene mutations

November 15, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog

Alcoholism and other substance-use disorders appear strongly linked to a particular gene mutation, researchers reported Tuesday.

Substance-use disorders are thought to arise from a combination of environmental or lifestyle factors and genetic characteristics. Identifying certain genes that are known to predispose people to the disease could be helpful in preventing drug addiction. Researchers have been working to identify some of the prominent gene mutations that could serve as markers.

The study focused on a gene called cannabinoid receptor 1 -- or CRN 1. Researchers in Spain examined three variants of the gene that had previously been linked to alcoholism. The genes were identified from blood samples of 298 males with alcoholism and 155 people without addiction. In two of those variants the researchers found a combination of alterations in the normal gene sequence that appear to be inherited together. Those two mutations appear more frequently in people with alcoholism.

"Certain patients consuming a large amount of alcohol will be more likely to develop alcohol dependence according to the possession of specific CNR1 polymorphisms," the lead author of the study, Rogelio Gonazalez-Sarmiento, of the University of Salamanca, Spain, said in a news release.

The study was published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Another study in that journal, published Tuesday, estimates that alcohol consumption causes about 4% of deaths worldwide and about 5% of worldwide disease. Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of infections, diabetes, immune-system disorders, cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, digestive ailments, violence and accidents. It also raises the risk of cancer of the pharynx, oral cavity, liver, larynx, esophagus, rectum, pancreas and, for females, breast cancer.

"These results send a clear message about drinking," said a co-author of the study, Emanuele Scafato of the Instituto Superiore di Sanita in Italy. "Less is better."

Return to Booster Shots blog.

Follow me:

Los Angeles Times Articles