OHSU

$24M Grant For OHSU-Led Alcohol Research Consortium

02/05/08  Portland, Ore

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has funded a five-year, $24 million Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism grant to support a consortium led by an Oregon Health & Science University researcher.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has funded a five-year, $24 million Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism grant to support a consortium led by an Oregon Health & Science University researcher.

Of the total grant, OHSU will receive about $6.3 million over five years, funding projects in the laboratories of Kathleen A. Grant, Ph.D., professor of behavioral neuroscience in the OHSU School of Medicine. The consortium, Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism: Stress, Anxiety and Alcoholism, or INIAstress, extends a cross species approach in exploring neural mechanisms that link stress, anxiety, and excessive alcohol intake.

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism result from a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Many aspects of an individual's response to the environment activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and are therefore labeled as "stress." Much of the stress in modern society is a subjective state of anxiety, where competing goals generate conflict and activate brain mechanisms involved in arousal and attention. These stressful states are often seemingly relived by drinking alcohol and may be a primary factor in establishing excessive alcohol consumption.

While there is a great deal of evidence supporting stress-alcohol interactions, less is known about how these interactions alter the brain at the molecular, cellular and systems levels to maintain excessive drinking and alcoholism and why this addiction is so difficult to treat. This consortium is tackling the larger picture of genetic influences on the brain mechanisms that mediate the response to alcohol, the response to stress, and the reciprocal relationship between excessive drinking, the physiological state of stress and the subjective state of anxiety.

The consortium's main approach will be to characterize the genetic basis of key neural mechanisms in stress and anxiety in order to clearly assess individual risk for the development of alcoholism or to develop tailored therapeutic approaches to treating the anxious alcoholic.

The grant represents the first competitive renewal for the INIA consortium, which is made up of 20 lead investigators from 11 institutions from the United States and Europe. The group received its initial round of funding in 2001. The other institutions involved are: University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center; Medical University of South Carolina; Wake Forest University; University of Texas Southwest; Virginia Commonwealth University; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Vanderbilt University; University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center; Furman University; University of Maine; and University of Cagliari, Italy.

To date, the consortium has made significant scientific progress. Accomplishments include: The consortia has published over 100 articles on the topic of genetic and environmental components of alcohol-stress interactions, the production of unique, genetically altered, mice for addressing the role of key genes in stress, anxiety and alcoholism, a growing data base of translational research linking findings from mice, non human primates and human beings, and supporting the inclusion of new investigators into the realm of alcohol research.

The NIAAA is one of the 18 institutes that comprise the National Institutes of Health. It supports and conducts biomedical and behavioral research on the causes, consequences, treatment, and prevention of alcoholism and alcohol-related problems. Visit www.niaaa.nih.gov for more information.

About Oregon Health & Science University
OHSU is the state's only comprehensive public academic health center. Its fundamental purpose is to improve the health and well being of people in Oregon and beyond. As part of its multifaceted public mission, OHSU strives for excellence in education, research and scholarship, clinical practice and community service. Through its dynamic interdisciplinary environment, OHSU stimulates the spirit of inquiry, initiative, and cooperation among students, faculty and staff. OHSU is made up of the schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, and School of Science & Engineering.

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