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Yale Scientists Awarded $8.4M Grant to Develop Treatments for Women With Problem Drinking

March 13, 2020

Yale Department of Psychiatry scientists have been awarded a five-year, $8.4 million federal grant to establish a new research center at Yale that will develop treatments to help women with problem drinking.

The new Yale-Specialized Center of Research Excellence (YALE-SCORE) will be funded by the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Rates of alcohol use disorder in women have increased by 84 percent over the past 10 years, relative to a 35 percent increase in men, impacting 33 million adults across the United States.

Alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States, and women drinkers experience exacerbated health risks associated with alcohol consumption when compared to men.

“All FDA-approved medications for alcohol use disorder were developed with samples of men, and none target factors that differentially maintain drinking in women,” said Sherry McKee, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and the new center’s principal investigator. “To date there has not been a concerted effort to incorporate sex as a biological variable into medication development for alcohol use disorder.”

To date there has not been a concerted effort to incorporate sex as a biological variable into medication development for alcohol use disorder.

Sherry McKee, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry

Using a neurobiologically-informed approach, the new research center will expedite the development of therapeutics targeting stress and negative affect, which differentially maintain drinking in women. Across projects key brain structures, neurochemical systems, HPA-axis activity, neuroimmune function, alcohol metabolism, and sex steroid hormones will be targeted to understand differences across women and men. Findings will translate to improved treatments for both sexes.

YALE-SCORE will also mentor junior investigators to conduct interdisciplinary translational research. Together, these combined efforts will provide a national resource to galvanize the study of sex and gender differences in relation to alcohol use.

Other Yale Department of Psychiatry faculty affiliated with the project are Marina Picciotto, PhD, and Yann Mineur, PhD (Co-Project Leads); Kelly Cosgrove, PhD (Project Lead); Ismene Petrakis, MD (Career Development Core Lead); and Ralitza Gueorguieva, PhD (Resource Core Lead; Department of Biostatistics, Yale School of Public Health).

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on March 13, 2020