A systems medicine research approach for studying alcohol addiction

Addict Biol. 2013 Nov;18(6):883-96. doi: 10.1111/adb.12109.


According to the World Health Organization, about 2 billion people drink alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can result in alcohol addiction, which is one of the most prevalent neuropsychiatric diseases afflicting our society today. Prevention and intervention of alcohol binging in adolescents and treatment of alcoholism are major unmet challenges affecting our health-care system and society alike. Our newly formed German SysMedAlcoholism consortium is using a new systems medicine approach and intends (1) to define individual neurobehavioral risk profiles in adolescents that are predictive of alcohol use disorders later in life and (2) to identify new pharmacological targets and molecules for the treatment of alcoholism. To achieve these goals, we will use omics-information from epigenomics, genetics transcriptomics, neurodynamics, global neurochemical connectomes and neuroimaging (IMAGEN; Schumann et al. ) to feed mathematical prediction modules provided by two Bernstein Centers for Computational Neurosciences (Berlin and Heidelberg/Mannheim), the results of which will subsequently be functionally validated in independent clinical samples and appropriate animal models. This approach will lead to new early intervention strategies and identify innovative molecules for relapse prevention that will be tested in experimental human studies. This research program will ultimately help in consolidating addiction research clusters in Germany that can effectively conduct large clinical trials, implement early intervention strategies and impact political and healthcare decision makers.

Keywords: Alcohol addiction; brain bank; epigenetics; genome-wide association study (GWAS); imaging genetics; inducible pluripotent stem cells (iPS); mathematical modeling; relapse models; transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism
  • Alcohol Drinking / therapy
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / metabolism
  • Alcoholism / therapy
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics*
  • Behavior, Addictive / metabolism
  • Binge Drinking / genetics
  • Binge Drinking / prevention & control
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Databases as Topic
  • Epigenomics
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neurobiology
  • Neuroimaging
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Precision Medicine / methods
  • Rats
  • Reward
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Systems Biology*
  • Transcriptome


  • Ethanol