Inclined by genes toward nicotine

Nearly 5 million people die prematurely each year from diseases related to smoking. Yet the World Health Organization estimates that more than a billion people smoke, a testament to tobacco’s addictive nature.

Growing evidence indicates that some of the tendency to develop nicotine dependence is inherited. Using DNA from smokers in African-American and European-American families, Joel Gelernter, M.D., professor of psychiatry, genetics and neurobiology, and colleagues recently linked several genetic regions to nicotine dependence.

Many of these regions had already been targeted by other researchers, but in a new finding reported in the January issue of Biological Psychiatry, the Gelernter team has shown that a region of chromosome 5 that contains several genes is strongly associated to nicotine dependence in the African-Americans in the study.

“These data add to the growing evidence for specific locations for genes that influence risk for nicotine dependence,” says Gelernter, who now hopes to zero in on the specific gene or genes that influence nicotine dependence.


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