New psychiatric genomics centre

29 June 2007

A new centre is to be established by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the US to study the genetics of common psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (see press release). Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (previously known as manic depression) affect around 2% of the population in developed countries. They are complex mental disorders, thought to arise from a genetic predisposition to disease affected by multiple genetic factors, combined with the influence of environmental factors.

The Stanley Center for Psychiatric Genomics will allow researchers to compare genome sequences from large numbers of people affected by the disorders; it is hoped that this will lead to identification of contributory genetic factors. Greater understanding of the genetics of such psychiatric disorders may help prompt diagnosis, and potentially lead to the development of improved treatments. Current treatments for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have very variable effects in different individuals, and in many cases are selected to relieve symptoms rather than the underlying disease process.

The new centre is to be set up using a $25 million endowment from the Stanley Medical Research Institute, which is focused on research into the causes and treatments of severe mental illnesses.

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