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Rats offer clues to biology of alcoholism

Hundreds of genes involved in drinking preferences, study finds

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2:15pm, August 4, 2016
rat in a wine glass

DRAWN TO DRINK  A study of rats that drink heavily reveals that hundreds of genes may be involved in alcoholism.

Alcoholism may stem from using genes incorrectly, a study of hard-drinking rats suggests.

Rats bred either to drink heavily or to shun alcohol have revealed 930 genes linked to a preference for drinking alcohol, researchers in Indiana report August 4 in PLOS Genetics.

Human genetic studies have not found most of the genetic variants that put people at risk for alcoholism, says Michael Miles, a neurogenomicist at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. The new study takes a “significant and somewhat novel approach” to find the genetic differences that separate those who will become addicted to alcohol from those who drink in moderation.

It took decades to craft the experiment, says study coauthor William Muir, a population geneticist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Starting in the 1980s, rats bred at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis were given a

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