Rutgers University has received a $10 million federal grant to study the genetic links to alcoholism, an effort that includes collecting and storing more than 46,000 saliva samples from across the nation.
“For the first time, researchers will have robust epidemiological and biological information from large numbers of individuals so that they may correlate genetics to alcohol abuse behavior,” said Jay A. Tischfield, a Rutgers professor and director of the Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey.
“The results will be used to formulate national policy and improve health care services,” he said.
The four-year grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism will provide funding to the Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository and will allow university scientists to conduct DNA extraction and perform genotyping to explore genetic links to the behavior.
Tischfield described the initiative as the largest whole-genome DNA sequencing study to date to be supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Until now, large population-based research on the causes of alcoholism has been conducted mainly using sociological, behavioral and limited biological data, Tischfield said. The focus of this study, which will begin collecting saliva samples in February, is to identify environmental and genetic risk factors and attempt to determine how they are associated with harmful alcohol-related behaviors and abuse.
Alcohol abuse and its related problems cost the United States billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, illness, property destruction, violence and crime, according to the federal government.