In a new study, researchers did a genome-wide analysis of more than 435,000 people and identified 29 genetic variants linked to problematic drinking.
The research was conducted by a team at Yale University School of Medicine and elsewhere.
The study includes a genome-wide analysis of people of European ancestry contained in four separate biobanks or datasets.
The researchers looked for shared genetic variants among those who met the criteria for problematic alcohol use, including alcohol use disorder and alcohol use with medical consequences.
These disorders are major contributors to a wide variety of medical problems worldwide.
The team found 19 previously unknown independent genetic risk factors for problematic alcohol use and confirmed 10 previously identified risk factors.
The meta-analysis of biobank data also included information on genetic risk factors for several psychiatric disorders.
This information allowed researchers to study shared genetic associations between problematic drinking and disorders such as depression and anxiety.
The team also found genetic heritability of these variants was enriched in the brain and in evolutionarily conserved regulatory regions of the genome, attesting to their importance in biological function.
Using a technique called Mendelian randomization, they were able to investigate how one genetically influenced trait affects another genetically linked trait.
This study gives researchers ways to understand causal relations between problematic alcohol use traits such as psychiatric states, risk-taking behavior, and cognitive performance.
With these results, scientists are also in a better position to evaluate the individual-level risk for problematic alcohol use.
One author of the study is Yale’s Joel Gelernter, the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and professor of genetics and of neuroscience.
The study is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
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