Scientists find gene linked to alcohol consumption

Mon Apr 4, 2011 3:39pm EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have identified a gene that appears to play a role in regulating how much alcohol people drink and say their finding could help the search for more effective treatments for alcoholism and binge drinking.

In a study of more than 47,000 people, an international team of scientists found that people who have a rarer version of a gene called AUTS2 drink on average 5 percent less alcohol than people with the more common version.

The AUTS2 gene, also known as called "autism susceptibility candidate 2" has previously been linked to autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but its actual function is not clear, the researchers said.

"Of course there are a lot of factors that affect how much alcohol a person drinks, but we know...that genes play an important role," said Paul Elliott of Imperial College London, who was part of the team conducting the study.

"The difference this particular gene makes is only small, but by finding it we've opened up a new area of research."

According to the World Health Organization, harmful use of alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths a year globally.

It is the world's third largest risk factor for causing diseases such as neuropsychiatric disorders like alcoholism and epilepsy, as well as cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis of the liver and various forms of cancer.

Gunter Schumann from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London said combining genetic studies and behavioral data should help scientists better understand the biological basis of why people drink, some of them to excess.   Continued...

<p>A guest inspects the colour and body of wine at Chateau Malartic Lagraviere in Leognan, southwestern France, April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>