The purpose of the present K02 Independent Scientist Award is threefold: first, to provide structured career development activities in psychiatric, statistical, and molecular genetics, second, to deepen my knowledge of alcohol-related phenotypes, and third, to apply these skills to the analysis of the rich genomic data yielded from my current R01, my other funded projects, as well as other data available at my institute. These goals stem directly from my funded projects and represent expansions in my current areas of expertise. Specifically, although I have the skill set needed to meet the genetic Aim of my current NIAAA R01 (AA020179 "Stress- induced Drinking in OEF/OIF Veterans: the Role of Combat History and PTSD" which is ongoing) I need increased training to fully utilize the data to ask new and deeper questions that are on the cutting edge of alcohol genetics research. Since my original training (in candidate gene designs) the field of genetics has changed significantly and increased in sophistication (e.g., genome wide association [GWAS] platforms, exom arrays, methylation arrays). These new platforms have introduced a number of analytic complexities, with multiple decision points in every stage of the process, from data cleaning to analysis to the interpretation of results. Thus, this K02 will give me the skills in the integration and harmonization of genomic data on multiple platforms (e.g., sequence, methylation, expression) to better utilize (beyond the original, now outdated aim) my NIAAA R01 data on the genomic influences on stress reactivity and subsequent alcohol use in soldiers.
This aim will be achieved by hands-on training in molecular and epigenetics (including wetlab immersions), supervised statistical genetic analyses done in collaboration with leaders in the field, formal coursework and workshops, and individual tutoring by K02 consultants. Additionally, the K02 will deepen my expertise in the area of alcohol-related phenotypes, beyond stress-induced drinking, which has been the focus of my work to date.
This aim will be achieved through directed readings, formal coursework, practical experience analyzing relevant datasets (e.g., NIAAA R37011408 "A Longitudinal Study of Genes, Environment and Alcohol Misuse in College Students"), and mentorship from leaders in the field (Dr. Kenneth Kendler). In summary, the overarching goal of the proposed K02 is to further my multidisciplinary independent program of research which aimed at the identification of risk and resilience factors, both biologic and psychosocial in nature, for traumatic stress related conditions (alcohol use disorders [AUDs], posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]) and translation of these findings into prevention and intervention programming. The K02 will provide me with protected time to fully engage in the training activities I have outlined, enabling me to coalesce my diverse training background and move my research program forward in ways not previously possible.
By integrating multiple sources of data (psychosocial, genetic, epigenetic, neuroendocrine) related to the interaction of stress and drinking from a relatively neglected group of subjects, young OIF/OEF adults between 21-30 who have been exposed to combat-related traumatic events it may be possible to prevent alcohol dependence from developing and, thereby, reduce the magnitude of costs to the individual and to society.