The UK Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (UK-COGA)
- a website for researchers, volunteers & the public
- the search for alcoholism genetic vulnerabilities
UK-COGA aims to:
- discover genes modifying the risk of alcohol dependence, and related problems like
depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder, and
dissocial (antisocial) personality disorder
- search for genetic mutations and their effects on proteins
- by scanning the whole genome and also focusing on specific genes of interest
- and by examining how drug treatments may affect risk of alcoholism
Is alcoholism a problem?
- in the UK we have a complex relationship with alcohol
- Most people drink sensibly but increasing numbers of people drinking harmfully
- Around 7% of the adult population drink so much that they become dependent on alcohol, and have difficulty controlling or stopping their drinking despite the consequences
- alcohol misuse cost the UK economy £16 billion in 2008 (through NHS costs, criminal justice, and loss of work) -- not to mention the human, family and societal costs
- understanding how people move from sensible drinking to alcohol dependence is important research with implications for health, suffering, and the economy
Is alcoholism genetic?
- alcoholism tends to run in families. Alcoholism is about 50-60% heritable.
- some of the influences towards alcohol misuse come from societal, parental and family attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol -- so called environmental effects
- but alcoholism even runs more commonly in blood relatives adopted away. For example, one study of adopted-away children of alcoholics (thus raised in a different environment) had higher rates of alcoholism -- suggesting a genetic component
- depression and other psychiatric disorders, like attention deficit disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder (BPD) and personality disorder co-occur commonly with alcoholism
- whether alcoholism predisposes to psychiatric disorder or vice versa is not yet known
Who are the researchers?