Gene connected to alchoholism
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have discovered a gene variant that may protect against alcoholism. The variant, in a gene called CYP2E1, is associated with a person's response to alcohol. For the ten to twenty percent of people that possess this variant, those first few drinks leave them feeling more inebriated than the rest of the human population, who harbor a different version of the gene. Previous studies had shown that people who react strongly to alcohol were less likely to become alcoholics later in life, but the genetic basis of this finding was not clear. Now the discovery of CYP2E1's role hints at a new mechanism of how people perceive alcohol, and further, how alcohol affects the brain. We have found a gene that protects against alcoholism, and on top of that, has a very strong effect, said senior study author Kirk Wilhelmsen, M.D., Ph.D., professor of genetics at UNC. But alcoholism is a very complex disease, and there are lots of complicated reasons why people drink. This may be just one of the reasons. The study appears in the October 19 on-line (Early View) edition of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (ACER). It will appear in print in the January 2011 issue of the journal. The research takes a specific phenotype – the way people feel after consuming alcohol – and uses it to dissect why some people develop alcoholism and some do not.