The GRIN2B gene encodes a portion of the NMDA receptor, which is involved in learning and memory but has also been tied to several alcohol-related issues including dependence, withdrawal, craving, and relapse.
A second analysis of 110 alcohol-dependent subjects in Germany identified a similar connection between GRIN2B and sobriety in people taking acamprosate, which provides a key step forward for future applications in pharmacogenetic screening.
"Previous studies have suggested other genes as possible biomarkers for sobriety," said lead author Victor Karpyak, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Mayo, "but this is the first time we have verified a biomarker in an independent population."
Karpyak did note that since all the participants were taking acamprosate, other biological mechanisms cannot yet be ruled out. His group is preparing a blinded, placebo-controlled study to confirm whether the abstinence effects are connected with acamprosate usage.
To read about another potential medication that can improve alcohol abstinence, see the Psychiatric News article "Anticonvulsant Drug Shows Efficacy in Treating Alcoholism."