Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Variations In Key Genes Increase Caucasians’ Risk Of Heroin Addiction

Date:
October 5, 2008
Source:
Rockefeller University
Summary:
Sometimes, small changes do add up. In the case of addictive diseases, tiny variations in a few genes can increase or decrease the likelihood of some people developing a dependency on heroin. Now, by examining a select group of genetic variants in more than 400 former severe heroin addicts, Rockefeller University researchers have identified several genetic variations in American and Israeli Caucasians that influence the risk for becoming addicted to one of the world's most powerful substances.

Sometimes, small changes do add up. In the case of addictive diseases, tiny variations in a few genes can increase or decrease the likelihood of some people developing a dependency on heroin. Now, by examining a select group of genetic variants in more than 400 former severe heroin addicts, Rockefeller University researchers have identified several genetic variations in American and Israeli Caucasians that influence the risk for becoming addicted to one of the world’s most powerful substances.

Related Articles


In a collaborative effort with statistical geneticists and several methadone clinics, scientists led by Mary Jeanne Kreek, head of the Laboratory of the Biology of Addictive Diseases, analyzed 1,350 variations in 130 genes and found nine, from six genes, that were either more or less common in recovering heroin addicts when compared to Caucasians with no history of drug abuse. These small changes in the gene sequences can cause significant changes in protein function that can influence addictive behavior — changes that may affect people of different ethnic background differently.

“The idea of ‘personalized medicine’ makes this field really exciting but also very complicated,” says Orna Levran, a senior research associate in the Kreek laboratory and first author of the study. “Although seven of these variants increase the risk for developing heroin addiction in Caucasians, the same seven may not have the same effect in other populations. So ethnicity and, more precisely, genetic information in each individual may become important factors for treating and diagnosing addictions to different drugs.”

In their analysis, Kreek, Levran and their colleagues looked at a string of letters called nucleotides, the building blocks that make up genes. In each of the six genes, at least one letter is replaced by another, a genetic variation known as a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP. The researchers found that all of the single-letter variations exist in parts of the genes that do not translate into proteins but instead may have a regulatory or a structural effect.

Out of the nine SNPs, the group found six in the μ, δ and κ opioid receptors, a finding that reinforces the idea, and many other findings of the Kreek laboratory, that opiate receptors play a major role in severe heroin addiction. The remaining three SNPs were found in genes coding for the serotonin receptor 3B, casein kinase 1 epsilon, which acts as a regulator of the circadian clock genes, and galanin, which modulates appetite and alcohol consumption. This is the first study to show that specific variants in these genes are associated with heroin addiction, explains Levran.

The SNPs in the κ opioid receptor and casein kinase 1 genes were found more in the control group than the heroin addicts’ group, suggesting that they conferred protection from heroin addiction — not vulnerability to develop addiction.

“Individually, these SNPs probably have a small effect,” explains Levran, “but collectively, we are seeing that they could have a larger effect. One of the goals now is to find all of these gene variants and assess how they influence people of different ethnic backgound.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rockefeller University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Levran et al. Genetic susceptibility to heroin addiction: a candidate gene association study. Genes Brain and Behavior, 2008; 7 (7): 720 DOI: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2008.00410.x

Cite This Page:

Rockefeller University. "Variations In Key Genes Increase Caucasians’ Risk Of Heroin Addiction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081002211720.htm>.
Rockefeller University. (2008, October 5). Variations In Key Genes Increase Caucasians’ Risk Of Heroin Addiction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081002211720.htm
Rockefeller University. "Variations In Key Genes Increase Caucasians’ Risk Of Heroin Addiction." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081002211720.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins