New research into nicotine addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded a $2.1 million contract to Perlegen Sciences, Inc., to investigate the human genome for DNA variations and candidate genes associated with nicotine addiction.

"This partnership, which combines NIDA support and cutting-edge private-sector technology, will help us better understand the significance of genetic influences in smoking," says NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "As we learn more about genetic influences on nicotine addiction and treatment response, we will be able to individually tailor the treatments for people who are addicted to this powerful drug."

NIDA-supported scientists at Washington University in St. Louis will use Perlegen's technology to analyze more than 1.5 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the genome in people who are highly addicted to nicotine, and compare these findings with those from people who are not addicted to the drug. SNPs (pronounced "snips") are DNA sequence variations that occur when a single nucleotide (A,T,C, or G) in the genome sequence is altered (i.e., when the genetic sequence AATTCCGGA is somehow altered to read ATTTCCGGA).

Most SNPs serve as biological markers for pinpointing a disease on the human genome map. This is because they are usually located near a gene associated with a certain disease. Occasionally, a SNP may actually contribute to a disease and, therefore, can be used to search for and isolate the disease-associated gene.

Perlegen, headquartered in Mountain View, California, was formed in 2000 to accelerate the development of high-resolution, whole-genome scanning.


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