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Jackson Lab Receives $11.7 Million NIH Grant to Study Neurogenetics of Addiction

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Jackson Laboratory announced that it has received a five-year, $11.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the neurogenetics of drug addiction.

The Center for Systems Neurogenetics of Addiction, which will be led by Associate Professor Elissa Chesler, will aim to study why and how certain individuals are more likely to start taking drugs, or get addicted to them. The team also plans to elucidate how the brain responds to drugs in order to find ways to treat compulsive drug-seeking behavior, the lab said in a statement.

"Drug addiction is a devastating and highly complex neurobiological and behavioral phenomenon, with multiple risk factors, stages and behaviors that have proven difficult to study in combination," Chesler said in the statement. "Our center brings an unprecedented approach to understanding the biological mechanisms behind individual risk for addiction."

Behavioral neuroscientists from several major universities, computational biologists, and geneticists will all work together on the initiative, using recent research on genetic, genomic, and behavioral analysis in lab mice. The team will evaluate advanced mouse populations with extremely high genetic and physiological variation in search of traits that predispose individuals to addiction, such as impulsivity, acute and sensitized drug responses, reward-seeking, adolescent nicotine exposure, and circadian variation. The researchers will then correlate these traits with the mouse genomes to build datasets on possible addiction-correlated gene variants, and will attempt to extend the findings from mice to human.

The databases resources and analysis tools will be made available to the global research community, the lab said, as will the mouse models developed by the researchers.

Last week, Jackson Lab announced it had been awarded a $28.3 million NIH grant to continue work on the second phase of the Knockout Mouse Project, an initiative focused on phenotyping a genome-wide collection of mouse knockouts generated by the International Knockout Mouse Consortium.