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International Partners to Seek Genes Involved in Cirrhosis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has provided $2.5 million to fund an international project that will search for genetic variants that may predispose some heavy drinkers to developing alcoholic liver cirrhosis, or ALC, while others do not.

The project will involve a multidisciplinary group of partners in the US, Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK who will collect and analyze clinical data from 1,250 heavy drinkers with ALC and 1,250 who do not have the disorder.

They also will study clinical data from 2,700 heavy drinkers from existing databases and repositories, and the subjects will be matched for other factors, such as age, race, and nationality.

The study will be led by principal investigator Timothy Morgan, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Irvine and Chief of Hepatology at VA Long Beach Healthcare System.

The subjects' DNA will be genotyped using the Illumina Human 660-Quad SNP array at the Center for Inherited Disease Research at Johns Hopkins University. The data will be analyzed and compared with clinical data to try to find genomic causes for why only a minority of alcoholics develop liver cirrhosis.

"We still do not understand why only a proportion of moderate to heavy drinkers get liver cirrhosis," Devanshi Seth, a partner on the project and a researcher at Sydney's Centenary Institute and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, said in a statement. "We hope that by analyzing the genetics in a large international group comprising thousands of drinkers we can detect the genetic risks associated with ALC."

"The lack of specific markers for [ALC] diagnosis and effective treatment compound the burden of the disease. That is why this research is so important," added Seth. "The results will help us identify and treat the people most at risk from drinking."

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