Yale researchers to participate in study of the genetics of ‘multi-substance use’ among veterans
A team of Yale researchers, together with Dr. Henry Kranzler of the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, have been awarded a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study genetic and other data from the department’s Million Veteran Program (MVP). The program seeks to answer key questions on heart disease, kidney disease, and substance use — high-priority conditions affecting veterans.
The principal investigators on the Yale team are Dr. Daniel Federman and Dr. Amy Justice. Other Yale investigators include Dr. Hongyu Zhao, Dr. Joel Gelernter, Dr. Ke Xu, Dr. William Becker, Dr. Mark Gerstein, and Dr. Perry Miller.
The Million Veteran Program, which has enrolled more than 390,000 veterans, has become the nation’s largest database linking genetic, clinical, lifestyle, and military exposure information. Part of a beta test for data access, the newly funded studies are among the first to use MVP data to delve into pressing questions on veterans’ health.
The Yale researchers and Kranzler will examine the genetic risk factors for chronic use of alcohol, tobacco, and opioids — and the dangerous use of all three together. Most people who smoke also drink alcohol; people who stop drinking are more likely to stop smoking. These observations suggest a single genetic link for multiple substance use behaviors, and possibly, other substance use including chronic prescription opioid use. However, using psychiatric interviews to establish the phenotype, the researchers have yet to find such genes. Instead, they will use longitudinal electronic health record quantity and frequency data on alcohol, tobacco, and opioid use to support gene discovery. Their broad goal is to explore genetic variants contributing to trajectories of sustained harmful substance use so that these might be effectively targeted, treating multiple addictions with a single medication.
Federman is professor of medicine at Yale and associate chief of medicine at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Justice is professor of medicine and of public health at Yale, and section chief of general internal medicine at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. Kranzler is professor of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Zhao is the Ira V. Hiscock Professor of Public Health (biostatistics) and professor of genetics and of statistics. Gelernter is the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and professor of genetics and of neurobiology. Xu is assistant professor of psychiatry. Becker is assistant professor of medicine (general medicine). Gerstein is the Albert L. Williams Professor of Biomedical Informatics. Miller is professor of anesthesiology and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.