Ethanol-induced adverse effects result from a broad range of complex interactions between environmental, behavioral, genetic and social factors. There is a high ethnic and interindividual variability in the occurrence and gravity of alcohol related pathologies, often not correlated to the amount of ethanol intake.
In the last years the gender-related different susceptibility has focused the attention on women vulnerability to ethanol and particularly to the possible teratogenic effects, as a consequence of alcohol consumption during gestation, resulting in neurobehavioral disorders in the adult. These differences have been mainly ascribed to ethanol toxicokinetics and polymorphisms of metabolic enzymes, in combination to socio-cultural factors, whose contribution cannot be disregarded.
However, in order to identify the determinants of multifactorial diseases such as ALD and other alcohol-related disorders, evaluation of functional polymorphism at multiple genes is necessary. The identification of possible biomarkers of susceptibility will represent the main goal of the near future and will contribute to the implementation of adequate prevention strategies, to the development of effective diagnostic test strategies, to detect higher risk drinking behavior and early indicators of tissue damage.
Submitted on invitation.
Accepted on 9 December 2005.