UTHealth researchers receive $2.6 million to study gene-environment interactions in cocaine addiction

October 4, 2017

Walss-Bass, Consuelo

Consuelo Walss-Bass, Ph.D.

Schmitz, Joy substance use disorders

Joy Schmitz, Ph.D.

HOUSTON – (Oct. 2, 2017) – Studying the effect of environmental stressors on the development of cocaine use is the focus of a $2.6
million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to researchers at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Called Collaborative Case-Control Initiative in Cocaine Addiction, the study will look at two stressors in particular – trauma exposure and HIV infection – in combination with the genetic profile of people who are addicted to cocaine.

“The significance of the genetic findings will be further investigated using the UTHealth Brain Collection for Research in Psychiatric Disorders,” said Consuelo Walss-Bass, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School and one of the study’s three lead principal investigators. “These studies will help further the understanding of how gene-environment interactions impact the severity of cocaine use disorder and lead to development of more tailored and targeted treatments for this chronic and global public health problem.”

Lead investigators include Joy Schmitz, PhD, the Louis A. Faillace, M.D. Professor and director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addictions at McGovern Medical School; and Rodrigo Grassi-Oliveira, Ph.D., of the Pontificia Universidade Catolica in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

The five-year study of Brazilian subjects will compare 1,000 people with cocaine addiction to 1,000 controls. The funding was granted through the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse and Fogarty International Center (1R01DA044859-01).

Deborah Mann Lake
Media Contact: 1-713-500-3030