Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Genetics in Medicine - Part 1 » Behavior - Twin And Adoption Studies, Complex Genetics, Animal Models, Alcoholism In Humans, Twin Studies Of Alcoholism

Behavior - Animal Models

genetic alcohol animals contributing genes

Because of this complexity, some investigators use animal models to complement human studies. Like humans, mice and rats differ in a variety of behavioral characteristics, including levels of alcohol use and tolerance or sensitivity to its effects. Animal studies allow breeding strategies that cannot be performed in humans. One approach that is commonly used in animal studies takes advantage of natural variation in behavior. Different strains of mice differ not only in coat color but also in preference for alcohol.

Under one of the most commonly used breeding strategies, animals from each of the behaviorally different mouse lines are allowed to mate with each other. Assuming the parents from each strain have different versions of genes contributing to alcohol use, subsequent generations of offspring will have different combinations of the genes contributing to the alcohol use and will display wide variation in their alcohol use. Such samples can be used to perform genetic studies searching for genes involved in the behavior, much like those described in humans: Animals more alike in their drinking behavior should be more likely to have inherited common stretches of DNA involved in the behavior.

One advantage of using animals is that the factors contributing to alcohol use in mice and rats are thought to be much simpler than the processes contributing to abuse in humans. Another is that animals' experience with alcohol can be experimentally controlled. Other strategies that are used in animals include inducing mutations or "knocking out" particular genes and studying the resultant aberrant behavior. If altering a particular gene consistently causes an alteration in a given behavior, the gene is likely involved in that behavior.

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