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The Epigenetics of Addiction

Linda Seaton
| Mar 11, 2015

The National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that addiction to tobacco, alcohol, and drugs costs more than $600 billion dollars each year. That includes the associated crime and incarcerations, increased health care costs, and lost work productivity that all too often go hand-in-hand with substance abuse.

Those who study addictions are still trying to answer one basic question:  what is the difference between an individual who can use a substance without long-term consequences and someone who will develop a lifelong addiction?  Marilee Morgan, manager of the genetics laboratory at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Center for Health and Addiction (CUChange), and lab founders Kent Hutchison and Angela Bryan are hoping to find some clues in the epigenome. Using the MiSeq® System and Nextera®XT Library Prep Kit, she and her colleagues are using targeting methylation sequencing to understand the changes that substance abuse makes to the brain.  With luck, understanding those epigenetic modifications will help them to identify new targets to treat and perhaps even prevent addiction in the future.