From the Science Directorate

Friends of NIDA Briefing Focuses on Genetics of Addiction

Friends of NIDA Briefing Focuses on Genetics of Addiction

by Anne Bettesworth

On April 8, APA Science Government Relations Office staff, in conjunction with the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus in the House of Representatives, organized the tenth Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) congressional briefing, titled “The Genetics of Drug Abuse and Addiction.” Research has shown that the causes of drug abuse and addiction are complex, with genetic, environmental, and developmental factors contributing. Genetics account for approximately half of an individual’s vulnerability to addiction, including how genes interact with the environment and stages of development. Thanks to recent scientific advances, we are now poised to further untangle these contributing factors and to better tailor prevention and treatment strategies. In fact, NIDA is supporting research to define and measure aspects of the social environment to understand how genes may mitigate or amplify social influences, known to powerfully affect individual choices and behaviors related to substance abuse.

Nora D. Volkow, Director of NIDA, began the briefing by summarizing the Institute’s genetics research portfolio as it relates to addiction and drug abuse. APA member Caryn Lerman, Mary W. Calkins Professor and Director of the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed emerging research on the role of genetic influences in smoking cessation and response to treatments for nicotine addiction. Alexandra E. Shields, Director of the Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities at the Institute for Health Policy, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, addressed challenges translating emerging pharmacogenetic approaches to smoking cessation treatment to clinical practice.

The event was cosponsored by 26 Friends of NIDA scientific and professional organizations and was well-attended by congressional staff. The briefing series, which began in 2005, was designed to educate members of Congress and their staff about substance abuse issues and elevate the profile of the NIDA with policy makers. For more information on the coalition, please email Anne Bettesworth.

APA Monitors Bill That Would Limit Research on Non-Human Primates

by Sangeeta Panicker

On April 17, the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 5882) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), along with Reps. Tom Allen (D-ME), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Bruce Braley (D-IA), John Campbell (R-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), and David Reichert (R-WA). If passed, this bill would prohibit invasive research (regardless of source of funding) on any of the following species of non-human primates: chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, or gibbons (which in fact are not great apes). The bill would also prohibit breeding and transportation of these species for such research purposes.

As defined in the bill, “invasive research” refers to “any experimental research that may cause death, bodily injury, pain, distress, fear, injury, or trauma to a great ape, including--(A) the testing of any drug or intentional exposure to a substance that may be detrimental to the health of a great ape; (B) research that involves … restraining, tranquilizing, or anesthetizing a great ape; or (C) isolation, social deprivation, or other experimental physical manipulations that may be detrimental to the health or psychological well-being of a great ape”. It also includes “ … observation of natural or voluntary behavior of a great ape, (if) the research require(s) removal of the great ape from the social group or environment … or require(s) an anesthetic or sedation event to collect data or record observations”.

The bill, which is supported by the Humane Society of the United States and The New England Anti-Vivisection Society, has been referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, Foreign Affairs, and Ways and Means. The APA Committee on Animal Research and Ethics is currently assessing the impact of this legislation on behavioral and psychological research with these species, if it were to be enacted as introduced. APA will monitor the status of the bill and advocate for legislation that does not impede ethically and scientifically sound research while ensuring that laboratory animals are afforded the highest levels of humane care and treatment.