US researchers have identified 11 genes linked to alcoholism. The genes were tested in three independent human groups and the results show alcoholics can be distinguished from non-alcoholics.
The findings could potentially be used to develop a genetic test to identify those at risk, to inform lifestyle choices and may open new treatment avenues.
Genetics are thought to contribute to alcoholism but a comprehensive biological understanding of the disorder is lacking.
Alexander Niculescu at the Indiana University School of Medicine and colleagues integrated the accumulated evidence on alcoholism from both human and animal studies to identify and prioritise 135 genes associated with the affliction.
To determine which of these genes may be behaviorally-relevant, the authors looked for genes that were altered in a mouse model for alcoholism.
Three independent human groups were tested and the results show that, based only on this set of 11 genes, alcoholics can be distinguished from non-alcoholics.
The findings suggest that these genes may have predictive value in assessing who may be at a higher risk for alcoholism, and may help to develop strategies for preventing alcoholism before it manifests.
The results of the study are published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.