The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has renewed a $7 million grant to Yale School of Medicine to speed research discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic for individuals at risk for becoming alcoholic, or for patients who already suffer from alcoholism.
"The gap between basic research advances and new clinical insights and treatments remains a critical obstacle to progress in the field of alcoholism research," said the principal investigator, John Krystal, M.D., professor and deputy chair for research for the Department of Psychiatry and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. "This mission is the enduring focus of the Center for Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism (CTNA) at Yale."
It was a Yale researcher, E. M. Jellinek, who pioneered the hypothesis that alcoholism is a medical illness. Over the years, researchers have identified ethanol targets in the brain and specific genes that are linked to a risk of developing alcoholism. New imaging tools allow researchers to look at brain chemicals and molecules and draw connections between those observations and human behavior.
CTNA scientists are working to better define the biochemical and functional characteristics of a brain circuit that involves the frontal cortex and the limbic system—regions responsible for higher cognitive processes and emotion, respectively. They are studying how disturbances in glutamate and dopamine neurotransmission within this circuitry contribute to an individual's vulnerability to persistent heavy drinking and alcohol dependence.
Krystal said members of the community can play a critical role in solving the urgent problems associated with alcohol dependence by participating in the studies. CTNA projects are actively seeking healthy individuals with and without family histories of alcohol problems, heavy social drinkers, heavy drinkers, and people who are alcohol-dependent.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation