NIH awards $2 million for Jackson Laboratory computational studies of alcoholism, addiction

Bar Harbor, Maine -- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $2 million grant to Jackson Laboratory (JAX) Associate Professor Elissa Chesler, Ph.D., to develop online resources to aid researchers in the study of genes associated with alcoholism and addiction.

Chesler and colleagues at JAX, Baylor University and the University of Tennessee have created, an online “knowledge discovery environment” for researchers to share and compare functional genomics results: genes associated with behaviors and biological processes for many different species, including humans and mice. “The system enables investigators to compare data generated across many diseases,” Chesler explains, “and gives new life to old data sets by putting them into a freely available and readily useable software environment.”

Chesler’s lab focuses on computational strategies for the behavioral neurosciences, and the new grant will support further development of GeneWeaver and use of the system in alcoholism and addiction research. "Our work on GeneWeaver over the past several years has led to the discovery of exciting new alcohol- and addiction-related genes from old data,” she says.

According to Chesler, data for many genetic and genomic studies of alcohol drinking and withdrawal have languished online for two decades or more—hard for search engines to find and difficult to interpret. “GeneWeaver rescues these data and makes them computable once again,” Chesler says, “but in order to establish a novel gene-disease relationship from such data, and confirm that the gene truly plays a role in a behavior, experiments must be performed. The mouse genetic resources and technical expertise resident at JAX make these experiments readily possible.”

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn. It employs 1,700 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.

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Read about a related project in the Chesler lab

Reference: GeneWeaver: A web-based system for integrative functional genomics, Nucl. Acids Res. (2012) 40(D1): D1067-D1076

NIAAA grant #2R01AA018776-05A1