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Alcohol Alcohol. 2006 May-Jun;41(3):209-24. Epub 2006 Feb 21.

The role of genetic polymorphisms in alcoholic liver disease.

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  • 1Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Berne, Murtenstrasse 35, CH-3010 Berne, Switzerland. felix.stickel@ikp.unibe.ch


Chronic alcohol consumption is a major cause of liver cirrhosis which, however, develops in only a minority of heavy drinkers. Evidence from twin studies indicates that genetic factors account for at least 50% of individual susceptibility. The contribution of genetic factors to the development of diseases may be investigated either by means of animal experiments, through linkage studies in families of affected patients, or population based case-control studies. With regard to the latter, single nucleotide polymorphisms of genes involved in the degradation of alcohol, antioxidant defense, necroinflammation, and formation and degradation of extracellular matrix are attractive candidates for studying genotype-phenotype associations. However, many associations in early studies were found to be spurious and could not be confirmed in stringently designed investigations. Therefore, future genotype-phenotype studies in alcoholic liver disease should meet certain requirements in order to avoid pure chance observations due to a lack of power, false functional interpretation, and insufficient statistical evaluation.

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