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NIH to Fund Research on Addiction-related Biomarkers

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute on Drug Abuse will fund research projects that aim to identify and validate genetic variations and loci on chromosomes that are involved in drug addiction and could be used to predict the likelihood of patient response to treatments.

The "Genetics of Drug Addiction Vulnerability" grants program is aimed at supporting research that will examine ways of studying and assessing the molecular genetics involved in drug addiction and addiction vulnerability. These studies may involve a range of research areas such as biomarker analysis, deep sequencing, phenotype studies, brain imaging, and animal-based environmental studies.

Investigators are encouraged to use funding from the R01 grants to use gene-gene and gene-environment interactions, developmental interactions, pharmacogenetics, and non-human models in their studies.

NIDA wants researchers to study stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamine, and caffeine, as well as narcotics, nicotine, barbiturates, cannabis, hallucinogens, and other drugs of abuse.

The level of scientific knowledge available for a given drug may vary widely. For example, there is a great amount of genome-wide association study data about nicotine dependence, but there is less replicated genetic findings for some other drugs.

Researchers seeking funding should analyze and explicitly state how their research uses data from past studies and how it will advance scientific knowledge, and so NIDA recommends that researchers contact its staff in the early planning stages of the project.

Grant applicants also are encouraged to consider using innovative genetic models, pedigree structure, haplotypes, and other methods of statistical analyses for identifying the genetic variations that lead to vulnerabilities for disorders such as drug addictions and response to drugs for those disorders.

The program may fund molecular genetics approaches including deep sequencing to follow GWAS studies that have identified SNPS; whole-genome scanning to identify chromosomal loci or genes and variants linked to addiction vulnerability; studies of phenotypes or endophenotypes to assess the molecular genetics of drug addiction; analyses of family studies to identify biomarkers; pharmacogenetics studies of treatments used for addiction including prediction of therapeutic response and adverse drug reactions; and other genomic and biomarker studies.

Statistical genetics studies funded under the program could include computational approaches that use resources such as HapMap, 1000 Genomes, Epigenomics, dbGaP, and others; combining GWAS or sequence data with 1000 Genomes data to look for rare and structural variants that may be more frequent in data sets with drug addiction phenotypes; research that examines genetic interaction with environmental factors, gender, treatments, and development; and addiction vulnerability traits that have been linked to multiple regions of the genome.

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