Our proposed Yale-Specialized Center of Research Excellence (SCORE) on sex differences in alcohol use disorder (AUD) brings together a team of leading basic and clinical science experts to pursue an interdisciplinary, translational, cross-species program of research aimed at identifying novel therapeutics to address the recent surge in rates of AUD in women. Over the past 10 years, rates of AUD in women have increased by 84%, translating to 10.5 million women across the United States. Alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States and women drinkers experience exacerbated health risks associated with alcohol consumption when compared to men. FDA-approved medications for AUD have relatively low efficacy, all were developed with samples of men, and none target factors that differentially maintain drinking in women. A considerable body of data identifies that women are more likely to drink to regulate negative affect and stress, while men are more likely to drink for alcohol-related positive reinforcement. Koob & Volkow194 have developed a heuristic framework of the addiction cycle, where the ?withdrawal/negative affect stage? involves drinking motivated by stress and other negative affect states, also termed ?the dark side of addiction?. Neuroadaptations during this stage identify reward deficits and stress surfeits, which drive compulsive drinking. Using this negative reinforcement model to guide our research, we plan to target key brain structures, neurochemical systems, HPA-axis activity, neuroimmune function, alcohol metabolism, and sex steroid hormones, which are hypothesized to differentially motivate alcohol consumption in women. To date, there has not been a concerted effort to incorporate sex as a biological variable (SABV) into AUD medication development. Consequently, the focus of our Yale-SCORE represents a high research priority topic for both NIAAA and ORWH. We propose three Projects that will have inter-related and shared goals, with each providing unique contributions to inform and expedite the development of AUD therapeutics for women with AUD. The Projects will be supported by three Cores and an institutional environment with exceptional resources and infrastructure to support translational science.
Our specific aims and objectives of the Yale-SCORE are to:
AIM 1 : Use a neurobiologically-informed approach focusing on the ?dark side of addiction? to inform and expedite the development of sex-appropriate therapeutics targeting stress and negative affect, which differentially maintain drinking in women.
AIM 2 : Mentor SCORE-Early Investigators to become the next generation of biomedical and behavioral researchers focused on alcohol and women?s health spanning the T1 to T4 translational spectrum.
AIM 3 : Be an institutional, regional, and national resource galvanizing the study of sex differences in relation to alcohol use across T1 to T4 translation by providing expert consultation, supporting faculty training awards, leveraging national data on sex and alcohol use to inform treatment and policy, and providing a program of outreach and dissemination.

Public Health Relevance

Rates of alcohol use disorders (AUD) in women have increased by 84% over the past 10 years. All FDA- approved medications for AUD have relatively low efficacy and none target factors that maintain drinking in women. This research will contribute to the public health effort to improve AUD treatment by providing a neurobiologically-informed approach to the development of sex-appropriate therapeutics for AUD, mentoring the next generation of interdisciplinary and translational researchers focused on alcohol use and women?s health, and providing an institutional, regional, and national center of research excellence on sex differences in alcohol use spanning T1 to T4 translation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Specialized Center--Cooperative Agreements (U54)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Grakalic, Ivana
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Yale University
Schools of Medicine
New Haven
United States
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