Study of Millions Reveals Genetic Links to Smoking and Alcohol

A A study of more than 3.4 million people has found nearly 4,000 genetic variants linked to alcohol and tobacco use, scientists reported Wednesday (December 7th) in Nature. More than 1,900 of the variants had not previously been linked to substance use behaviors, study co-author and statistical geneticist at Penn State College of Medicine Dajiang Liu says in a Press release. The new findings were aided by the fact that a fifth of the genomic samples came from individuals of non-European ancestry, Liu says.

“This is an excellent study. It demonstrates the power of using large samples from multiple ancestry groups in well-designed analyses,” said geneticist and neuroscientist Joel Gelernter of Yale University. new scientist.

Although scientists have conducted similar genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in the past, Liu says new scientist that the majority of these surveys were conducted primarily among people of European descent. Although social situations and policies can influence a person’s inclination to smoke and drink, there is substantial evidence that a person’s genetic makeup can also predispose them to alcohol and tobacco use. “We are at a stage where genetic discoveries are being translated into clinical [applications]“says Liu Nature. “If we can foresee someones risk of developing a nicotine or alcohol addiction using this information, we can intervene early and potentially prevent many deaths.

See “Overlapping genes for alcohol use disorder and Alzheimer’s risk: study

Liu has collaborated with more than a hundred other scientists to assess the millions of genomic datasets, using machine learning techniques to link genetic variants to factors related to smoking and alcohol consumption. These factors ranged from the age a person started the habit to the number of cigarettes or drinks they drank per day or week or the likelihood of them quitting the habit. Analyzes revealed nearly 2,500 genetic variants linked to regular smoking, as well as 243 additional variants linked to the number of cigarettes a person smokes per day, 206 linked to whether a person quit smoking and 39 linked to age at which a person started smoking. habit. Meanwhile, 849 variants were associated with how much alcohol a person drank per week. In total, almost 4,000 variants associated with alcohol and tobacco consumption have been identified, some of which have been found in genes associated with the secretion and regulation of the hormone dopamine, new scientist reports.

Curiously, 721 of the total variants were found only as a result of multi-ancestry testing, Nature reports. Liu tells the publication that most of these variants had similar effects across all ancestries, although risk scores generated only for those of European ancestry were not good predictors of risk for other ancestry groups. .

“It’s promising to see that the same genes are associated with addictive behaviors across ancestors,” Liu said in the press release. “Having more robust and diverse data will help us develop predictive tools for risk factors that can be applied to all populations.

Although this is the largest genetic study of tobacco and alcohol use to date, experts say there is still room for improvement. Ananyo Choudhury, a geneticist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, says Nature that the similar effects seen across ancestry could be the result of most study subjects living in the United States. Other experts add that incorporating more international population analyzes would improve study results, the publication reports. Liu agrees. “In future phases of the study, we will welcome collaborations from other researchers who have access to additional data sets to further expand our studies,” he told the magazine.

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