UIC research identifies potential pathways to treating alcohol use disorder, depression

Amy Lasek, a former UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science pilot grant awardee (2018-2020) and researcher at UIC’s Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics, was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry. The study, “Transcriptomics identifies STAT3 as a key regulator of hippocampal gene expression and anhedonia during withdrawal from chronic alcohol exposure,” builds on her pilot research into new treatments for individuals who suffer from alcohol use disorder and depression.

Withdrawal from chronic alcohol drinking can often result in depression. For this study, researchers removed postmortem hippocampus samples of rats in alcohol withdrawal. The hippocampus is a brain region that plays a role in depression and cognitive function. Researchers conducted RNA sequencing of all the RNA transcripts in the hippocampus and looked for those that were changed during withdrawal from alcohol

“During withdrawal from long-term alcohol use, people often suffer from depression, which may cause them to start drinking again as a way to self-medicate. If we can treat that aspect, we hope we can prevent people from relapsing,” said Amy Lasek, UIC associate professor of psychiatry and anatomy and cell biology at the College of Medicine, and an author of the study.

In addition to Lasek, the paper’s authors are Hu Chen, Kana Hamada, Eleonora Gatta, Ying Chen, Huaibo Zhang, Jenny Drnevich, Harish Krishnan, Mark Maienschein-Cline, Dennis Grayson, and Subhash Pandey, all of UIC, and Wei-Yang Chen of the University of Washington, Seattle. 

This work was funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (P50 AA022538 to A.W.L., S.C.P., and D.R.G.; U01 AA020912 to A.W.L.; and T32 AA026577 to K.H.) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (UL1 TR002003 to A.W.L. and D.R.G.). S.C.P. is also supported by the senior research career scientist award from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  

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