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Background of the ACGT

The Alcohol Center for Genes and Translation grew out of discoveries made at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center (EGCRC).

The EGCRC was founded in 1980 as a non-profit institute affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) in which all faculty hold appointments in the UCSF Department of Neurology. Its original mission was to study the neurobiology of alcoholism. Founded with investigators trained in molecular and cell biology who mainly used in vitro cell culture systems, the EGCRC recruited new faculty with expertise in human and invertebrate genetics in the early 1990s.

With this expansion came the opportunity to conduct forward genetic screens in Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans, which succeeded in identifying several proteins that regulate behavioral responses to ethanol. During this time the EGCRC also recruited and developed faculty proficient in the generation of transgenic mouse models and in behavioral pharmacology, systems neuroscience, functional imaging, and human genetics.

This combined expertise fostered the development of a highly integrated group of investigators with a common interest in addiction but skilled in different model systems and technologies. The EGCRC currently employs twelve principal investigators.

Founding of a Center

During the past decade, the mission of the EGCRC expanded to include all of substance and select comorbid conditions such as anxiety, depression, pain, and schizophrenia.

To create a focus for alcohol research within the EGCRC, a subgroup of EGCRC investigators formed the ACGT, an NIAAA-funded alcohol research center to maintain a core focus on integrated alcohol studies at the EGCRC and to expand interest in alcohol research at UCSF.

The approach of the ACGT is to take novel gene products found to regulate responses to ethanol in cell culture, ex vivo, or invertebrate models and examine them in mammalian model systems to determine if they regulate behavioral responses to alcohol and contribute to the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Such studies are necessary to determine if any of these novel proteins are potential drug targets for the development of new therapies to treat alcoholism and if they are associated with risk of alcoholism in humans.

Three ACGT Research Components and two Pilot Projects are serviced by two Scientific Core Components: the Animal and Behavior Core and the Transgenic and Imaging Core.

The ACGT works closely with the EGCRC Preclinical Development Program, which provides guidance for generating patents, licensing discoveries, and obtaining chemical compounds for testing in animals.

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