Researchers find genes linked to tobacco and alcohol addiction

A large genetic study analysing data from more than 3.4 million people has identified over 2,300 genes that predict tobacco and alcohol use, reports News-Medical.Net.

The study that was published in Nature, was co-led by Penn State researchers that found more than 2,300 genes that predicted tobacco and alcohol use with a majority of the genes similar among people with European, African, American and Asian ancestries.
Dajiang Liu, professor and vice chair for research, Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State and his team evaluated genetic datasets from over 3.4 million people of which at least 20 per cent had non-European ancestries. The team evaluated a variety of smoking and alcohol traits and, using machine learning techniques, identified genes that were associated with these behaviours, reports News-Medical.Net.
When comparing the data between samples from different ancestries, the researchers found a similarity in genes relating to tobacco and alcohol use behaviours.
“It is promising to see that the same genes are associated with addictive behaviours across ancestries. Having more robust and diverse data will help us develop predictive risk factor tools that can be applied to all populations,” Lui said.
Lui says that in two to three years the genetic risk scores could be refined and used as part of routine care for those at risk of tobacco and alcohol use. Moving forward the team will try to understand the function of the genes and how their function and interaction with the environment can affect the risk for addictive behaviour, reports News-Medical.Net.
“This project leveraged large amounts of data to identify common genetic risk factors across diverse populations,” said Kevin Black, MD, interim dean of the College of Medicine. “Using these findings to develop screening tools for diseases of despair is the kind of innovation that will help our College lead the way in using health informatics to contribute to health preservation and disease treatment in our communities.”

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