Trying to better understand the scourge and help identify new prevention strategies as more than 3,000 opioid-related deaths anticipated in New Jersey this year

Credit: Coriell Institute

A pioneering Camden-based research institute has partnered with academic and healthcare leaders to launch a unique study on how genetics and other factors impact opioid addiction, an effort to better understand the disease and help identify new prevention strategies.

The Coriell Institute for Medical Research announced Thursday it has joined forces with Cooper University Health Care and the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University to launch the research initiative, believed to be the first of its kind in New Jersey. Coriell is an expert in collecting and studying biologic material; Cooper provides clinical expertise and treatment input; and the medical school has research expertise in addiction and genetics, according to organizers.

Officials at Coriell, which has been a leader in biological research since the 1950s, said the project will involve taking blood and tissue samples from individuals who have died of opioid-related causes, and additional cultures from willing family members, in an effort to identify genetic connections. A biological library will also be compiled for future research.

Genetic testing will also be conducted on patients in treatment for various forms of opioid addiction and dependence, and on pain patients being treated with prescription opioids by their physicians in an effort to better understand what triggers actual addiction, the group said. All information will be used anonymously.

‘Potential to define risk factors’

“Like the rest of the nation, New Jersey faces an opioid crisis,” noted Dr. Annette Reboli, dean of the medical school. “This initiative has the potential to define risk factors for opioid addiction and develop strategies to prevent people from developing opioid use disorder and to thereby save lives.”


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