Alcoholism affects many people. It is a serious issue and it can be observed all over the world. As with any other phenomenon like alcoholism that affects thousands, there can be several patterns pointing at the source of the problem. A recent study found such a pattern, specifically a polymorphism in a gene that affects an individual’s susceptibility to alcoholism.
This study (linked at the end of this article) shows that a specific genetic allele is partly responsible for the susceptibility of an individual to develop a dependency on alcohol and eventually abuse it. Individuals with a NR3C1 polymorphism, coding for a receptor for glucocorticoids, tend to have increased chances of abusing substances like alcohol.
Additionally this polymorphism was also associated with antisocial behaviour.
This may be due to the following quoted statement from the source article:
“Glucocorticoid receptor proteins coded by NR3C1 genes are involved in inhibitory signaling processes of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a core biological mechanism underlying human response to environmental stress.”
As a result the individual carrying this polymorphism may have a dysfunctional perception of threat and altered behavioural characteristics. Although most probably, this polymorphism is only part of the problem, determining whether there are genetic influences for such issues will greatly help for their treatment.
Another interesting result from this study is that ethnic groups seem to have differences in the alleles they carry, with european americans and african american having different alleles overall. This is common for many alleles, to be carried mostly by one ethnic group, but knowing which groups tend to carry which genes might help us determine the cause of a problem. There could even be a drug that influences this receptor in a way that minimizes the problem, used as a preventive mechanism or as a treatment. On the other hand its still probably a bit early for that.
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