A handful of FDA-approved drugs exist for treating individuals with alcohol use disorder but they have been largely ineffective at reducing the high rates of relapse. As such, there remains a critical need to identify and develop alternative pharmacological treatment options.
Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), through collaborative efforts with the NIH-funded INIAstress Consortium, have identified novel potassium (K+) channel genes within addiction brain circuitry that are altered by alcohol dependence and correlate with drinking levels in a mouse model of alcohol drinking.
Significant reduction of heavy alcohol drinking after administration of a KV7 channel-positive modulator validated Kcnq, one of the identified genes that encodes KV7 type K+ channels, as a potential pharmacogenetic target. These preclinical findings, published in the February 2017 special issue of Alcohol on mouse genetic models of alcohol-stress interactions, suggest that K+ channels could be promising therapeutic targets that may advance personalized medicine approaches for treating heavy drinking in alcoholics.