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Workshop Analyzes Alcoholism Genetics Data

Statistical geneticists from around the world met in Arcachon, France, recently to test newly developed statistical methods for mapping genes that influence genetically complex diseases. The 11th biannual Genetic Analysis Workshop (GAW 11) was supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. GAW has previously analyzed data on the genetics of a variety of diseases including diabetes, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Participants in GAW 11 analyzed large data sets on the genetics of alcoholism. The data had been gathered over the past 9 years by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's Collaborative Studies on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), a consortium of six research sites. COGA provided data obtained from 1,214 individuals comprising 105 extended families with a high incidence of alcoholism. The COGA data are the first comprehensive genome-scanning data to be analyzed in the 16-year history of the GAW.

In a series of 46 presentations based on the analysis of the data on alcoholism and 22 presentations on biological markers for alcoholism, investigators confirmed the COGA investigators' published findings that genes on chromosomes 1, 7 and several others influence the disease of alcoholism. Results of the analyses will be published in a forthcoming issue of Genetic Epidemiology.

Gene Site Associated with Scleroderma Found

A study blending modern-day genetic marker research and century-old tribal records has identified a chromosomal site associated with the connective tissue disease scleroderma in Oklahoma Choctaw Native Americans. Although scleroderma affects members of all ethnic groups, the disorder is particularly prevalent among the Choctaw.

The study, coordinated by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases'' Specialized Center of Research in Scleroderma at the University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, has implicated the gene for the protein fibrillin-1 as a possible susceptibility gene for scleroderma, a disease characterized by tissue scarring within skin, internal organs and small blood vessels. Fibrillin-1 is also known to be responsible for a scleroderma-like condition in a mouse model of the human disease.

The study, published in the October issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, moves scleroderma research a step closer to identifying a susceptibility gene. The work was cofunded by the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, as well as other groups.

NIDDK To Study Common Prostate Condition

Men who have unexplained discomfort or pain in the pelvic area or chronic abacterial prostatitis are needed for a 5-year, $5.5 million study funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Although no one knows how many men have prostatitis, experts think it is the most common genitourinary ailment in men younger than 50, and the chronic abacterial form -- for which there is no known cause and no diagnostic test or reliable treatment -- predominates. Prostatitis occurs in men of all ages and races and accounts for an estimated 2 million visits to doctors each year, according to a national survey.

Abacterial prostatitis is a syndrome of pain in the genital area and lower back, usually accompanied by frequent and urgent urination. It can effectively chain severely affected men to their bathrooms. Other symptoms such as burning or pain during voiding or ejaculation vary widely and may come and go without warning. The walnut-sized prostate sits forward of the rectum, below the bladder and surrounding the urethra, the tube through which urine passes out of the body.

"It's amazing to me that we can't reliably treat the majority of men who have prostatitis. We hope this study will help us do a better job diagnosing and treating these men in the future, but we recognize the road ahead will probably be quite unpredictable," said Dr. Leroy M. Nyberg Jr., NIDDK study director.

From Nov. 9 through October 2001, six medical centers will recruit more than 600 men for the Chronic Prostatitis Cohort Study. Patients may contact the nearest participating center for more information. The nearest one to NIH is at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Call Dr. Richard B. Alexander, (410) 605-7233.

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