DNA Predicts Reaction to Drug That Fights Alcohol Dependence

Friday, February 8, 2008 General News J E 4
CHARLESTON, S.C., Feb. 7 Inherited genetic makeup oftenplays a role in determining the risk level for certain diseases, includingalcoholism. Now new evidence-based research also shows a correlation betweengenotyping and the treatment of alcohol dependence.

Investigators participating in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse andAlcoholism's 2001-2004 Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventionsfor Alcohol Dependence Study (COMBINE Study) have discovered a directcorrelation between patients with the Asp40 allele, a variation of thereceptor gene OPRM1, and the drug naltrexone. Patients with this variant generesponded positively to the drug that blocks opiate receptors in the brainthereby reducing gratification from alcohol. Not only did patients who weretreated with naltrexone and have the Asp40 gene variant go without harmfuldrinking for a longer period of time, but they also consumed fewer beverageson the days they did drink.

"For the first time we might have a 'personalized medical treatment' foralcoholism," said Raymond Anton, M.D., COMBINE Study principal investigatorand director of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs at the MedicalUniversity of South Carolina (MUSC). "Discovery that a common genetic traitpredicts treatment response to a commonly used medication should enhance itseffectiveness and helps focus alcohol treatment in a cost-effective manner."

These findings provide a viable solution for the 15 to 25 percent of thepopulation that carry the Asp40 allele. Alcohol counseling did not have thesame affect as the drug, therefore researchers conclude genotyping is mostbeneficial without the therapy.

Gene variant carriers of all ethnicities who took naltrexone were morelikely than their counterparts to have a good clinical result. However, sincethe study had more Caucasian participants, the results for this group are themost reliable.

About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina isthe oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition ofexcellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trainsmore than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 10,000 employees,including 1,300 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer inCharleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgetsin excess of $1.3 billion. MUSC operates a 600-bed medical center, whichincludes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital and a leading Instituteof Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinicalservices, visit or

SOURCE Medical University of South Carolina


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