The University of California, San Francisco Family Alcoholism Study

May 3, 2006
Cassandra Vieten, PhD

I. Design, Methods, and Demographics

Vieten, C, Seaton, K, Feiler, H, Wilhelmsen, K. (2006) The University of California, San Francisco Family Alcoholism Study. I. Design, Methods, and Demographics. Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research, 28(10), 1509-1516.


Background: The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Family Alcoholism Study is a project designed to identify genetic loci that influence susceptibility to alcohol dependence and related phenotypes. Evidence supports a substantial genetic contribution to alcoholism susceptibility. However, the genetic epidemiology of alcoholism is complex, and its clinical manifestation is heterogeneous, making phenotype definition and demonstration of linkage difficult. Despite these challenges, some progress has been made toward identifying genes.

Methods: The UCSF Family Alcoholism Study used a small family design, focusing primarily on sibling pairs and parent‐child trios for linkage and association studies. Alcoholism‐related phenotypes were assessed through interview and self‐report questionnaires, with a focus on unidimensional and subphenotypical traits. Data‐driven approaches to determining the most promising phenotypes for genetic analysis are being used. Both genome‐wide scan and candidate gene approaches were used.

Results: The study enrolled 2154 individuals from 970 families from December 1995 through January 2003. Test‐retest and interrater reliability for clinical data are very good, and power estimates suggest that this study will have adequate power by linkage analysis to detect loci with moderate effects. Design, methods, and sample demographics of the UCSF Family Study are presented, along with intrafamilial correlations for primary diagnostic phenotypes.

Conclusions: Plans for genetic analysis, novel approaches to phenotype refinement, and the implications of ascertainment bias for heritability estimates are discussed.

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