A Gene for Alcoholism is Discovered

Researchers at Washington University and 5 other centers have combined forces to identify a gene that is associated with alcoholism in some families. The scientists focused on a region of chromosome 15 that contains several genes involved in the movement of a brain chemical called GABA between neurons. One version of the gene, GABRG3, was found statistically linked (associated) with alcoholism in the affected families.

Our Comments: There is a difference between identifying an attitude that runs in a family and discovering a gene that contributes to alcoholism. The HealthDay title of the previous article "Heredity May Play Part in Drinking Habits" is misleading. There is no evidence whatsoever that attitudes toward drinking are hereditary. There are familial, societal, and cultural attitudes toward alcohol consumption but this does not mean that they have a genetic basis.

Genes clearly do contribute to alcoholism. However, even when a gene like GABRG3 is found, that does not mean we understand the genetic basis of alcoholism. The researchers do not yet know how changes in the GABA gene increase a person's risk of alcoholism.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com

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