New Genes Connected to Tobacco Addiction

    Image: Vlad Kochelaevskiy

    Over 2,300 genes are associated with alcohol and tobacco use, according to new Penn State research published in Nature.

    “We’ve now identified more than 1,900 additional genes that are associated with alcohol and tobacco use behaviors,” said Dajiang Liu, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Public Health Sciences. “A fifth of the samples used in our analysis were from non-European ancestries, which increases the relevance of these findings to a diverse population.”

    About 400 genes were discovered in a previous research study.

    “It is promising to see that the same genes are associated with addictive behaviors across ancestries,” said Liu in a statement. “Having more robust and diverse data will help us develop predictive risk factor tools that can be applied to all populations.”

    Within two years to three years, according to Liu, using these genetic risk factors would be refined and become routine in care for individuals already identified as having increased risk for alcohol and tobacco use.

    “This project leveraged large amounts of data to identify common genetic risk factors across diverse populations,” said Kevin Black, interim dean of the College of Medicine. “Using these findings to develop screening tools for diseases of despair is the kind of innovation that will help our college lead the way in using health informatics to contribute to health preservation and disease treatment in our communities.”