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Potential novel biomarker for alcohol dependence

May 29, 2019

(Boston)--Specific molecules (small noncoding microRNAs or miRNAs) found in saliva may be able to predict alcohol dependence as biomarkers.

This is the first study to examine changes in the miRNA expression in the saliva of people with alcohol dependence. Currently, no genetic markers exist to test for this condition.

Alcohol dependence is a common, complex and genetically inuenced disorder. A current diagnosis depends primarily on self-reported symptoms, which is limited by inaccurate recall or reluctance of patients to give accurate information on their drinking behaviors or alcohol-related problems.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) first used miRNA sequencing (miRNA-seq) technology to prole miRNA transcriptomes in the saliva of patients with alcohol dependence and healthy control subjects from both African-American (AA) and European-American (EA) populations. They then identied salivary miRNAs that expressed differently in people with alcohol dependence as compared to the control group. Using a machine learning approach, the researchers were then able to predict alcohol dependency in approximately 80 percent of AAs and 72 percent of EAs.

According to the researchers, there is considerable interest in the identication of biological measurements (or biomarkers) to assess a patient's current or past alcohol use.

"The identication of disease-specic biomarkers in easily accessible body uids such as saliva can result in the early diagnosis and treatment of diseases. This study provides initial evidence that salivary miRNAs are potential biomarkers for this illness," explained corresponding author Huiping Zhang, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM.
-end-
These findings appear online in the journal Epigenomics.

Funding for this study was provided by grants (R21AA023068 and R01AA025080) from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Editor's Note:

HR Kranzler has been an advisory board member, consultant or continuing medical education speaker for Alkermes, Indivior and Lundbeck. He is a member of the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology's Alcohol Clinical Trials Initiative (ACTIVE), which was supported in the last three years by AbbVie, Alkermes, Amygdala Neurosciences, Arbor Pharmaceuticals, Ethypharm, Indivior, Lilly, Lundbeck, Otsuka and Pfizer. HR Kranzler and J Gelernter are named as inventors on PCT patent application #15/878,640 entitled: "Genotype-guided dosing of opioid agonists," filed 24 January 2018.

Boston University School of Medicine

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