The INIA Texas Gene Expression Database: An online tool for alcohol genomics
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Alcoholism is a serious condition that affects millions of people and costs billions of dollars each year in treatment, damages, and lost income. In addition, it carries a tremendous emotional burden. Alcoholism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, which have yet to be fully identified. Fortunately, alcoholism research, as well as research into other diseases with a genetic component, has greatly benefited from recent rapid developments in high-throughput genomic technologies and the development of relevant model organisms. This has been highly productive for progress in the field, but effective methods for identifying relevant data and for performing cross-dataset analyses have not been developed at the same pace. To help fulfill this need, I have developed the INIA (Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism) Texas Gene Expression Database (IT-GED), which is freely available at http://inia.icmb.utexas.edu. IT-GED is a web-based database which contains a compilation of the significantly expressed genes from each of several microarray datasets investigating the role of gene expression in the brain's regulation of alcohol consumption. The studies were performed both in model organisms (mouse and rat) and post-mortem humans. The data is presented via a user-friendly interface which provides advanced searching abilities for identifying genes of interest and tools for analysis of the data. These tools provide the ability to compare user data to every dataset in IT-GED in order to assess the significance of a group of genes across multiple datasets and the ability to generate visual networks of those genes in order to identify the ones that are likely the most functionally significant in the response to high alcohol consumption. IT-GED thus provides a means by which alcohol researchers can combine multiple sources of data to generate novel hypotheses concerning the genetic causes of alcoholism. The goal of IT-GED is to provide support for comparing and integrating results across gene expression studies of alcohol consumption and for generating novel hypotheses based on individual genes and gene-gene interactions by simplifying data access, providing various tools for analysis, and presenting users with an easy-to-use interface.