Addiction is a brain disease, common in Europe, with deleterious consequences on individual physical and psychological health, and serious societal and economic consequences through criminality and violence, decreased productivity and increased healthcare costs. In every family, in a lifetime one can identify someone who has suffered from addiction; alcohol, nicotine or illicit drug use affects many people. Over 20 years there has been little advance in the drug treatment for addiction, with most new treatments addressing physical drug withdrawal rather than treating drug craving and relapse. The contribution of genetic influences to addiction liability has been recently recognised but the identification of genetic risk factors and genes involved in the molecular basis of addiction is a new major challenge for the post-genomic era. This project is a collaboration between basic science groups, one SME and a leading biotechnology company devoted to human studies on the role of genes in complex diseases. This public-private partnership brings together a highly innovative genealogical led human genetics approach and a team of researchers with Europe's best genomic mouse models. The core of the research effort will be the identification of genes associated with drug addiction using an unbiased genome-wide approach. The strong environmental component in the etiology of drug addiction has presented a particularly difficult problem for genetic studies of this brain disorder in the past. The groups of this Consortium propose to meet this difficult challenge by combining powerful animal genetics and gene profiling strategies with a human genetic approach that is relatively resistant to environmental modifications of the drug addiction phenotype. Genes identified in this project will help to elucidate dysfunction of genetic pathways in the addicted brain and provide new targets for the development of novel therapies.
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