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Scientists just made a wild discovery: Addiction has genetic markers.

A cure for addiction might be found using, of all things, cocaine and rats.

Scientists just made a wild discovery: Addiction has genetic markers.

Any elementary schooler who's completed a D.A.R.E. program can tell you about the dangers of addiction.

Remember this? Yep. Me too. Photo via U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons.


Far more difficult to explain, however, is how addiction can be passed from generation to generation.

We sometimes use labels like "addictive personality" for people who are born with what seems like a tendency toward addiction ... but do we know exactly which parts of the brain these addictive tendencies stem from? And if we did, would we then be able to prevent addiction before it ever became an issue?

Thanks to an all-star team of researchers, the answer to both of these questions seems to be "yes."

Researchers think we might be able to prevent addiction before it starts.

How did they come to this conclusion? With rats. Cocaine-addicted rats.

Photo via iStock.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Alabama at Birmingham published a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal in April 2016, claiming that they found certain genetic differences in rats who are susceptible to addiction.

Image by PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay.

According to the study's lead author, Shelly B. Flagel, addiction can be linked to two basic genes: fibroblast growth factor and dopamine D2 receptor.

“If [the rats] have certain low versus high levels of one of these molecules, then they can be a candidate for treatment to prevent addiction in the first place. Or, if we know that they’re an addict, to prevent relapse," said Flagel to Inverse.

As dreadful as it may sound, humans and rats are almost identical on a genetic level.

Photo via iStock.

So even though this link was only found in rats, there's a strong chance that the link could be present in humans too.

The Human Genome Project explains that "the rat genome contains about the same number of genes as the human genome ... and almost all human genes known to be associated with diseases have counterparts in the rat genome and appear highly conserved through mammalian evolution, confirming that the rat is an excellent model for many areas of medical research."

Once we know for sure what these "addiction genes" look like in rats, eventually we might be able to identify those genes in humans.

Someday, we might even be able to identify these "addiction precursors" in humans with something as simple as a blood or saliva test.

Basically, this research on cocaine-addicted rats could help us prevent addiction in humans before it becomes an issue.

“That’s one benefit of this study — that we were able to look at essentially genetically similar animals, and say, this is what their brains look like before they’ve been exposed to cocaine, and then this is what they look like after they’ve gone through this prolonged self-administration paradigm and develop or exhibit these addiction-like behaviors,” said Flagel.

“It’s just providing further evidence that this is clearly a key molecule."

So in the fight to stop addiction, it seems that a useful resource is...

GIF via "Review."

Oh, the irony. Science is truly an amazing, confusing, wonderful thing.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

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All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

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In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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