For African Americans, alcoholism and depression linked to 1 gene

Scientists have known that people with depression or alcoholism are at risk of developing the other, but a new study pinpoints a gene linking the two.

A single gene variant is strongly associated with both developing alcoholism and depression in African Americans, researchers report.

“The strength of the findings was unexpected…”

The gene variant is involved in brain development, according to the new genome-wide association study.

The SEMA3A gene variant, discovered in the analysis of entire genomes of more than 7,800 subjects, had not previously turned up in genetic studies of either alcoholism or depression individually.

While researchers have long known people with either alcoholism or depression are at higher risk of having the other disorder, the study is one of the first to look for genetic basis of this comorbidity.

“The strength of the findings was unexpected—this was a very strong signal,” says Joel Gelernter, a professor of psychiatry, of genetics, and of neuroscience at Yale University.

The specific association was in African American study subjects and—for reasons that are unclear—not in those of European ancestry, the researchers report.

The researchers, from both Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, report their finding in JAMA Psychiatry.

The National Institutes of Health funded the research.

Source: Yale University

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