Researchers at UM, USC, Harvard and MIT Studying Genetic Links in Mental Disorders


Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Medical School, the University of Southern California and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT are working together on a genome sequencing project to study genetic links in two specific mental disorders. The four-year, $16 million study will process the genomes of 10,000 people of European, Hispanic and African origin.

"We hope to gain a better understanding of these diseases that directly affect 1 percent of the population but impact countless friends and relatives," said Principal Investigator Michael Boehnke, the Richard G. Cornell Distinguished University Professor of Biostatistics and director of the Center for Statistical Genetics in the Department of Biostatistics at the School of Public Health.

Whole genome sequencing requires the reading of about three billion pairs of DNA from just one person. The entire project will do 10,000 such three billion part sequences over its course. The work began this month.

The sequencing will target two mental disorders suspected of being related and which recent research has found physical, brain similarities. Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder have both a similar physical affect on the brain and are suspected of sharing a genetic relation as well. The research being done by the collaborative group will work to sequence genomes to find evidence of those genetic relationships.

Detailed knowledge of genetic structure will provide the basis for novel interventions, the researchers say.


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