Mouse Models For Addiction
Decades ago, researchers first tested strains of laboratory rats and mice for specific addiction traits, such as high preference for certain drugs or alcohol. Since individuals within a single strain are virtually identical, they all have the same addiction profile. But researchers discovered that individuals from different strains had vastly different addiction profiles. This was one of the earliest clues that addiction has a genetic component.
Researchers soon learned that, by selectively breeding rats or mice with certain addiction traits, they could generate lines of animals with very specific addiction profiles. They bred mice with differences in drug preference, sensitivity, tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms.
Today, researchers are still studying some of these animal lines and strains. For example, Dr. Scott Rogers is studying different strains of mice (right) that vary in their addiction potential for alcohol. After identifying the genes correlated to this vulnerability in mice, researchers hope to identify homologous genes in humans that render a person more or less susceptible to alcohol addiction.
When humans have a gene in common with another organism, scientists call the counterpart gene a “homologue” or a “homologous gene.”