New gene breakthrough in alcohol use

12 April, 2011

International researchers, including a team from Queensland, may have identified a gene that appears to regulate how much alcohol people drink.

The researchers hope the discovery may lead to a better understanding of what causes drinking problems within the general population.

"Although many of the influences on alcohol drinking are non-genetic (reflecting societal, lifestyle, and behavioural influences), there is also an important genetic component," Professor Nick Martin from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) said.

"Our research has found that a small genetic change can lead to increased consumption of alcohol," he said in a statement.

The gene is known as autism susceptibility candidate 2, or AUTS2, and has previously been linked to autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"The gene is most active in parts of the brain associated with neuropsychological reward mechanisms, suggesting that it might play a part in the positive feelings that people have when they drink alcohol," Prof Martin said.

Their research included 47,000 people and found that there were two types of the AUTS2 gene, one of them three times more common than the other.

It found those with the less common version drink on average five per cent less alcohol than those who carry the more common gene type.

The study was conducted by an international consortium led by scientists at Imperial College London and Kings College London.

Source: AAP NewsWire