It’s long been known that alcoholism is linked to genetics. However, there are still many gaps in scientific knowledge, as a new study by a team at Yale Medical School has shown.
Researchers at the American university have discovered 19 new genes that may be involved in alcohol dependence.
Published on 25 May in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the study was based on a genome-wide analysis of biobank data for more than 435,000 people of European descent.
“Although genome-wide association studies have identified problematic alcohol use (PAU) risk genes, the genetic architecture of this trait is not fully understood,” point out the scientists behind the publication.
In their analysis, the team identified a total of 29 independent genetic risk factors related to problem drinking. Of these, only 10 were already known to play a role in alcohol dependence.
The meta-analysis also included information on genetic risk factors associated with several psychiatric disorders, which enabled researchers to investigate common genetic associations between problem alcohol use and disorders such as depression and anxiety.
“This gives us ways to understand causal relations between problematic alcohol use traits such as psychiatric states, risk-taking behaviour and cognitive performance,” explains Hang Zhou, an associate researcher in psychiatry and the lead author of the study.
“With these results, we are also in a better position to evaluate individual-level risk for problematic alcohol use,” adds Joel Gelernter, a professor of genetics and neuroscience and a co-author of the study.