Potential Genetic Testing For Substance Abuse

Now it is possible to develop similar tests that reveal a person's potential to become dependent on nicotine or marijuana or have antisocial personality disorder, University of Iowa researchers report online March 6 in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

Such tests would not dictate who would become substance dependent or have behavioral problems, as genes do not function in isolation but are influenced by other genes and environmental factors, said the study's lead author Robert Philibert, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

"What matters most is not whether you have a particular gene but whether the gene is expressed, and what other environmental factors may be at play. Genetic variation in and of itself is not deterministic," Philibert said.

The technique used to analyze blood is called "transcriptional profiling," said Anup Madan, UI adjunct assistant professor of neurosurgery and an assistant professor at the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle.

"Transcription profiling involves looking at all the genes -- nearly 30,000 of them -- at one time. We label all the expressed genes by fluorescent tags, and changes in fluorescence intensity are used to identify differential gene expression," Madan explained.

"We can see if there is a pattern of genes for a specific disease. Over time, we can build a map and see what is happening and define relationships between genes," he added.

The team used samples from six subjects in the Iowa Adoption Studies and nine controls to perform the initial profiling. They then used data from 94 adoption study subjects to check for pattern matches at the gene level.

Newswise | Potential Genetic Testing For Substance Abuse

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