Gene Combinations Help Predict Alcoholism Medication Success

Gene Combinations Help Predict Alcoholism Medication Success

- in Health

2532824517_db46c7ab19An experimental treatment for alcohol dependence works better in individuals  who possess specific combinations of genes that regulate the function and binding  of serotonin, a brain chemical affected by the treatment, according to a study  supported by the National Institutes of Health.  A report of the finding  appears online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“This study is another important step toward personalized treatments  for alcohol dependence,” said Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director  of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which funded  the study.  “A personalized approach based on a person’s genetic  makeup is increasingly being investigated for delivering optimum treatment  to the ‘right’ patient.”

Ondansetron is a medication currently used to treat nausea and vomiting,  often following chemotherapy.  It works by blocking serotonin-3 receptors,  and has shown potential as a treatment for defined subpopulations with alcohol  dependence.

In previous studies, Professor Bankole Johnson, D.Sc., M.D., and his team  at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, have shown that variations  in genes that encode the serotonin transporter, a protein that regulates the  concentration of serotonin between nerve cells, can significantly influence  drinking intensity.  They have also shown that the effectiveness of ondansetron  therapy among people with alcohol dependence is influenced by variations of  the serotonin transporter gene.

In the current study, Professor Johnson and his colleagues extended their  prior work by analyzing variants of serotonin receptor genes, collectively  designated as HTR3, among nearly 300 alcohol-dependent individuals who were  participating in a clinical trial of ondansetron.  They found that three  HTR3 variants were significantly associated with the effectiveness of ondansetron  treatment for alcohol dependence.

“Taken together, these studies implicate a collective effect of serotonin  receptor and transporter gene combinations, defined by a five-marker genotype  panel, on the response to treatment with ondansetron for a genetically defined  subpopulation of individuals with alcohol dependence,” said Professor  Johnson. “Multi-site, larger studies are about to begin to progress  this work.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National  Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting  research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol  abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems. NIAAA also disseminates research findings  to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research  information and publications are available at

The National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit



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