This application is a request for a NIAAA Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23). Alcoholism is a complex, genetically influenced disorder the cause of which may be better understood through the study of genetically influenced phenotypes that mediate the risk. Alcohol exerts many of its effects via interactions with receptors for the amino acid gamma-aminobutyricacid (GABA), including GABAA receptors, which are formed by the assembly of five subunit proteins and are involved in the reinforcing effects of alcohol. Because differences in sensitivity to alcohol is a risk factor for the development of alcohol use disorders, this study will determine if genetic variation in GABAA -receptor subunit genes mediate, in part, the observed variance in sensitivity to alcohol in a healthy social-drinking population (Specific Aim 1). To test this hypothesis, the time course of subjective and physiological effects obtained repeatedly before and following acute alcohol ingestion will be determined.
Specific Aim 2 will determine if genetic variations in GABAA-receptor subunit genes associated with differences in sensitivity to alcohol (as determined in Specific Aim 1) are also associated with alcohol dependence. This hypothesis will be tested using an established DMAdataset collected from a large population of alcohol-dependent and control subjects.This research will expand our understanding of one possible mechanism by which risk of alcoholism may be transmitted. It is hoped that such knowledge will contribute to future pharmacogenetic approaches in the screening and management of alcohol use disorders. The candidate's career development plan is set in a multidisciplinary environment and includes: conducting mentored research in the project described above, developing expertise in human subjects research techniques, acquiring experience in the application of psychological assessment scales, learning laboratory techniques, and gaining skills in genetic analysis. Although the candidate is a well-trained neuroendocrinologist, she requires mentored training to hone skills as an alcohol researcher with a special interest in human genetics. The candidate's long term career goal is to become an independent clinical investigator in the field of alcohol use disorders with expertise in genetics. Specifically, the candidate aspires to make significant contributions to understanding the multifactorial pathogenesis of alcohol abuse and dependence and its translational application to treating these disorders.
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