Alcohol use disorder (AUD), which includes “alcoholism” and abusive alcohol consumption, represents a major public health burden contributing to over 88,000 deaths annually in the United States and costing the U.S. economy over $249 billion annually due to lost productivity, health care expenses, property damage and criminal activity. The underlying molecular basis for AUD is incompletely understood and there is no current adequate treatment although remarkable progress has occurred. Genetic risk factors contribute critically to susceptibility to AUD, likely a result of many variants each contributing modestly to risk. However, genetic studies in animal models and humans have to date made slow progress in identifying genes contributing to AUD or translating such discoveries to new therapies for the disorder.
The VCU Alcohol Research Center (VCU ARC) is dedicated to discovering the networks of genes that contribute to the brain mechanisms of AUD and impact the risk of developing the disorder. This Center is supported by grant P50-AA022537 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and through funds provided by the VCU School of Medicine and the VCU Office of Research and Innovation. VCU ARC is one of 20 national Alcohol Research Centers funded by NIAAA. Using a comprehensive cross-species genetic and genomic approach in humans, rodents and invertebrate species (C. elegans and Drosophila), VCU ARC seeks to identify and validate gene networks modulating alcohol behaviors. From such studies, we seek to understand the genetic architecture for AUD disease risk and to identify novel targets for targeting future therapeutics. Furthermore, our laboratories also provide an exciting and rigorous forum for training the next generation of alcohol researchers.
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