Dr. Da-Yu Wu of NIDA’s Genetics Workgroup speculates that the Yale team’s findings may, in time, have a significant impact on addiction research and treatment. He notes that substances of abuse may affect the genes driven by the human-specific promoters and enhancers associated with brain development. Therefore, these genes and their regulators could represent new therapeutic targets. Dr. Noonan finds this idea intriguing, “It’s possible, because pharmacologic agents can alter gene expression and epigenetic states in living cells.”
Dr. Wu also speculates that the researchers’ insights could guide the development of precision—or even personalized—medications for addiction treatment. Dr. Noonan elaborates, “Regulatory maps of brain development could help us interpret variations in promoters and enhancers, and perhaps other noncoding DNA regions, that are associated with addiction risk. Genetic risk factors may converge in particular regulatory pathways. If we could determine this, we might be able to identify the biological processes that are affected.”
This study was supported by NIH grants DA023999, NS014841, GM094780, and GM106628.
Source: Reilly, S.K.; Yin, J.; Ayoub, A.E.; Emera, D.; Leng, J.; Cotney, J.; Sarro, R.; Rakic, P.; Noonan, J.P. Evolutionary changes in promoter and enhancer activity during human corticogenesis. Science. 2015 Mar 6;347(6226):1155-9. Article