Organised by Wilson M. Compton, NIDA & Co-organised by Aidan Gilligan, SciCom
Friday 14 February, 08h00 AM – 09h30 AM, Regency (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Annual Meeting 2014, 13-17 February, Chicago
Meeting Global Challenges: Discovery and Innovation


Session Description

Wouldn't it be wonderful to attribute our compulsion for addictive damaging activities, such as overeating, taking illicit drugs or smoking, wholly to our genetic makeup? Then we could blame our parents for everything! We know it is bad for us but we still do it. Why? This session explores the latest scientific evidence behind compulsive behaviour. Personalised medicine provides plenty of research linking genetics and disease, but establishing a relationship between genetic variation and behaviour is trickier. How does over-consumption of high-fat food trigger addiction-like neuro adaptive responses in our brain-reward circuitry?

Why are less than 25 percent of heroin users proven to be dependent, while other addictive substances need only one try for a permanent susceptibility to addiction to occur? How does nicotine work as the principal reinforcing component in tobacco smoke responsible for addiction? This symposium highlights new research showing that genetics plays but one part, demonstrating that compulsive behaviour usually comes about after extended access. As biologically deterministic as that may sound, we all have our aptitudes, traits and susceptibilities - and free will can prevail. The speakers contend that the same is true with addiction. This session sheds new light on how the three strands of biological, psychological and social elements work together and emphasises the importance of continued global research into many unknown underlying mechanisms.

Relevance to Theme and Special Relevance to the Audience:

This session will be appeal to all delegates with a clear focus on better understanding the fundamental science of addiction via concrete examples of global significance that affect us the most. While offering insights into the latest brain mapping research, this session will challenge widely-held myths around the seldom seen science behind some of today's most controversial public policy issues.

US Flag Organiser:
Wilson M. Compton, M.D., M.P.E.,
Deputy Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 6001 Executive Boulevard, MSC 9589, Bethesda, MD 20892-9589, USA. Phone Number: +1-301-443-6504; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Irish Flag Co-organiser:
Aidan Gilligan,
Founder, CEO SciCom - Making Sense of Science, Euroscience Governing Board Member, ESOF Copenhagen 2014, International Media & Marketing Committee Vice-Chair. 121 Rue Franklin, 1000, Brussels, Belgium. Phone Number: +32(0)474042602; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Danish Flag Moderator:
Professor Klaus Bock,
Member of the European research Council’s Scientific Council, Champion Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) 2014 Copenhagen, Former Chairman of the Danish National Research Foundation, Former Head of Research Carlsberg. Bedgade 40, DK-1260, Copenhagen, Denmark. Phone: +45-3544-6200; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Indian Flag Discussant:
Seema Kumar,
Vice President, Enterprise Innovation & Global Health Communications, Johnson & Johnson, One Johnson & Johnson Plaza, New Brunswick, NJ 08933, USA. Phone Number: +01 732 524-2646; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


Presentation Title: Understanding Gene-environmental Interactions in the Etiology of Addictions

US Flag Speaker 1:
Wilson M. Compton, M.D., M.P.E.,
Deputy Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Talk Description:

Family, twin and adoption studies have documented that addictions of all types have a strong genetic basis and recent research is uncovering the specific genetic factors associated with the onset of these conditions. Yet, epidemics of smoking, obesity and similar behaviours can change rapidly suggesting extreme environmental modification of genetic risks. Current models include assessment of broad social environmental factors and their modification of genetic predisposition.  Recent findings that provide important clues about gene-environment interactions include studies which show that family-based prevention interventions may be particularly effective in a subset of adolescents at increased genetic risk for onset of substance abuse (Brody G, et al. 2009).   Other studies show intriguing interactions of genotype with responses to tobacco taxation policies (Fletcher JM, 2012), and family genetic studies suggest important interactions of genetic and environmental risk factors (Kendler K, et al. 2012).  Furthermore, understanding of epigenetics may provide insights into mechanisms of the impact of genetic variation on response to environment. Studies such as the Gene-Environment-Development-Initiative (GEDI) at NIDA show great promise in unraveling these complex diseases and pointing the way toward effective prevention and treatment.


Presentation Title: Understanding Vulnerability to Obesity

Irish Flag Speaker 2:
Dr. Paul J. Kenny,
Associate Professor, Laboratory of Behavioural and Molecular Neuroscience, Department of Molecular Therapeutics , The Scripps Research Institute – Florida, 130 Scripps Way, #2A2, Jupiter, FL 33458, USA. Phone Number: + 1 561-228-2231; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Talk Description:

Obesity and overweight together are the second leading cause of preventable death in the US and a major cause of premature death in all developed, and increasingly developing, countries. Global science is only beginning to understand why variation in our genetic material can increase our vulnerability to develop food dependence and become obese. Recent clinical and preclinical findings have shed important new light on the mechanisms by which genetic variation can increase vulnerability to gain weight. They evidence the fundamental importance of better understanding gene and environment interactions. In this presentation, I will discuss new findings made in conjunction with teams of global researchers on the genetics of obesity. In particular, I will show how genetic variation in the dopamine D2 receptor (D2R) can increase vulnerability to develop compulsive eating and gain weight. I will also explain how D2R variation interacts with so-called "obesogenic" environments to control risk of weight gain. Together, these findings will highlight the important contribution that our genes make to vulnerability to weight gain, while equally evidencing how many of the underlying mechanisms remain unknown.


Presentation Title: Understanding Vulnerability to Nicotine

South African Flag Speaker 3:
M.D. Delon Human,
President & CEO, Health Diplomats, Secretary-General of the Africa Medical Association, Former Secretary of the World Medical Association, 8 Place de la Tour, CH-1270 Trelex, Switzerland. Phone Number: +41 22 369 90 12; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Talk Description:

Placed in the international context of ongoing FDA and EU moves to consult with stakeholders on efforts to reduce the harm caused by smoking, this presentation will focus on the latest independent clinical trials and what biomarker science is telling us. Dr David O'Reilly will argue that cigarettes remain the greatest public health problem of the 20th and 21st centuries. Sensible research can, and does, offer alternatives for the approaching 1 billion smokers worldwide. Yet, why are conventional cigarettes the only option for consumers when they are the most lethal, killing half of their regular users in related illnesses? Why are proven alternatives so difficult to bring to market? What is breaking science telling us about the act of smoking itself, about replacement therapies, about the possible production of cigarettes with less harmful toxicants? Against the backdrop of falling smoking rates in the West and alarming rises in the developing world, why are public health authorities ignoring the care rights of smokers who die while trying to quit? This talk will explode some myths about tobacco today and stress the importance of scientific evidence to ensure better informed policies.