Major European research initiative in the genetics of drug addiction

The University of Surrey has announced that it is to lead a major European research initiative in the genetics of drug addiction, funded by an €8.1 million contract from the European Commission.

The effort brings together eight leading public and private research organisations with the aim of identifying genes involved in addiction and advancing the development of new treatment strategies for this serious disease.

Although the role of genetics in susceptibility to addiction has been recognised for some time, the complexity of the disease and the importance of familial environmental risk factors have made isolating genes a formidable challenge. To meet it, this initiative will combine human population genetics with powerful animal genetics and gene-expression strategies. Reykjavik-based deCODE genetics, a biopharmaceutical company and world leader in gene discovery in common diseases, will head the human genetics effort, working with Iceland’s National Center of Addiction Medicine (SAA).

Professor Ian Kitchen of the School of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at the University of Surrey, who heads the research programme said “It is very exciting to be able to bring together the capabilities of eight leading groups across Europe. An understanding of the genetics of addiction may give us new insight into the biological basis of addiction and the dysfunction of the addicted brain. This may serve as a first step toward developing treatments that can fight drug craving and relapse, instead of focusing solely on the symptoms of drug withdrawal as we do today”.

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