Madelyn Rice

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Alcoholism is an urgent public health issue concerning certain populations who may be at greater risk of experiencing the disorder. By studying the genetic role of alcohol addiction, medical professionals may be able to establish new protocols to treat addicts and aid in preventing vulnerable demographics from developing alcoholism. In the Genetic Role of Alcoholism, I explore the genetic mutations that contribute to an individual’s addiction to alcohol and identify the particular genes and proteins that undergo aforesaid mutations. As the level of alcohol increases within the bloodstream, so too does the risk of behavioral problems and mental alterations. Moreover, when an individual stops or reduces drinking, they may experience painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. There is a plethora of risk factors that contribute to an individual’s development of the disorder, as well as several negative impacts resulting from it. Both genetic and epigenetic factors have been shown to aid in the transition from use to abuse via neuroadaptations in the brain. The three major genes I studied are OPRM1, ALDH2, and DRD4. The A118G mutation of OPRM1 has been associated with opioid and alcohol addiction. ALDH2 is the second enzyme of the major oxidative pathway of alcohol metabolism. There are two major isoforms of ALDH2; Caucasians possess both forms, while East Asians lack one, resulting in a higher frequency of acute alcohol intoxication among this group. The mutation in this gene in which glutamic acid is substituted for lysine at the 504th position results in an inability to eliminate acetaldehyde. DRD4 encodes the D4 subtype of the dopamine receptor in humans, with a polymorphic, five-repeat allele mutation in this gene being associated with cravings for alcohol and binge drinking.

Faculty Mentor

Kristin Rosler, PhD

Academic Discipline

BS - Biology, BS - Criminal Justice


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