Schizophrenia and bipolar study aims to create most comprehensive resource to date

A national team of researchers was recently awarded a $16 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to create a genetic resource of schizophrenia and biplar disorder from DNA samples, the University of Southern California reports.

The funding, which will be shared by researchers from USC, the University of Michigan and the Broad Institute Inc., will go toward better understanding the genetic basis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, while identifying new targets for drugs or therapies.

“This study will greatly increase the data available on the human genomic sequence," said Carlos Pato, principal investigator of the study. "By design, it will help us study schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but this resource should prove extremely important for understanding the role of the human genome in a broad set of disorders and in normal human functions.”

The heredity factor

Since both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are highly heritable conditions, analyzing the genetic basis of these conditions could help researchers understand how genome sequences vary from one person to the next.

"The important challenge is not only to find variants that affect the function or expression of a gene, but to find the subset of variants that truly matters to psychiatric illness," said Michele Pato, USC professor and holder of the Della Martin Chair of Psychiatry.

The study will look at 10,000 or more DNA samples from ethnically varied individuals.

“The failures and successes of genetic analyses over the past 15 years have shown that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are highly polygenic illnesses, which means that making meaningful observations about the genetic basis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder will require analyzing the largest possible number of genomes,” Michele said.

Source: USC

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