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genetic link
aldehyde dehydrogenase
alcohol dependence
receptor genes
alcohol consumption
alcohol addiction
protein synthesis
alcohol dependency
The Genetic Link To Alcoholism
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Alcoholism is a topic many people would rather not discuss because they are ashamed or embarrassed to admit they might have a problem. However many people do not consider that although alcohol consumption is a choice everyone can make on their own, there might be a genetic factor that additionally affects why people consume alcohol excessively. Alcoholism can obviously run in families and if parents are alcoholics, then the children are more prone to also be alcoholics.

Several studies have been done with twins, families, and adoption situations, which indicate that genes play an important role when dealing with alcohol dependence factors. Researchers use genomic technology to search for genes humans have that may put them at risk for developing alcoholism. When looking at the human genome, scientists search for genetic variations that may affect the possibility of contracting diseases. It has been found that there are genetic variations that are a factor in alcohol addiction through several outlets including: development regulation, cell communication and interactions and protein synthesis.

Alcohol dehydrogenase 1B and aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 are alcohol-metabolizing enzymes that have been found to show alcohol dependence. In addition, the polymorphisms in certain receptor genes also affect alcohol dependence. Polymorphism occurs when there are more than two non-continuous genetic variations that code for a specific trait, and their recurrence cannot be halted by a simple mutation.

It is hard however to study the human genome for these specific genes, because there tends to be inconsistency due to the heterogeneity, or identical phenotypes, from alcohol dependency. Nevertheless, several strategies are in place and a well-known study was done: The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. Through research, families were studied and their phenotypic data gathered on those members of the families with a history of alcoholism. As a result, they were able to identify several regions of the chromosome with genes known to influence alcohol consumption. Following this study, several others have been performed showing similar results. Researchers are excited about this success using human subjects.

The next step is to understand and categorize the risks associated with the genes, and how or if they are truly related to alcoholism. In the mean time, scientists and researchers are learning more about the overall genetic link to alcohol dependence and as a result, they are gaining a better understanding of why there is a biological link to the excess intake of alcohol.


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