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Gelernter, Potenza Receive Grant to Study Genetic Risk Variants for Methamphetamine Use Disorder in Thailand

September 29, 2023

Two Yale Department of Psychiatry scientists have received a federal grant to study and identify genetic risk variants for methamphetamine use disorder (MUD) and related mental health traits in people in Thailand.

The study, “Methamphetamine and Other Substance Use Disorder Genetics in Thailand,” builds on over two decades of research and training collaborations between Yale School of Medicine and Chulalongkorn Faculty of Medicine in Thailand.

The research will be led by Joel Gelernter, MD, Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Genetics and of Neuroscience, and Marc Potenza, MD, PhD, Albert E. Kent Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in the Child Study Center and of Neuroscience.

The grant, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is for $3,889,614.

The researchers point out that MUD is a serious problem worldwide, and that treatment options and understanding of its biology are greatly limited.

Large genome-wide studies have increased scientists’ knowledge of the biology of many substance use disorders, but not yet MUD -- and the researchers hope their whole-genome analysis in the Thai participants will increase understanding of genetic risk factors for MUD and MUD biology.

Most studies of substance use genetics have focused on European populations; this study in an East Asian population helps address this disparity also.

“Earlier this year we received funding for a five-year training grant with Thai institutions, including Chulalongkorn, to train investigators in alcohol use and trauma-related traits,” Gelernter said. “With this project, we extend our collaboration to work toward creation of a biobank sample that can ultimately be employed to study a range of psychiatric and substance use traits in the Thai population.”

The work builds on studies in Thailand initiated decades ago by Gelernter and the late Robert Malison, MD, professor of psychiatry, who died in 2020.

“The information gained through the genetics grant should significantly advance not only the biological understanding of MUD, but also efforts toward personalized interventions,” Potenza said. “As there are currently no medications with formal indications for treating MUD, the knowledge gained has the potential to have a substantial impact.”

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on September 29, 2023