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Approved Research

Comorbidities among mental and physical disorders using data from Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS)

Principal Investigator: Professor Ian Gizer
Approved Research ID: 58200
Approval date: August 26th 2022

Lay summary

Individuals diagnosed with substance use and addiction-related disorders often meet diagnostic criteria for one or more additional mental health and/or physical health disorders. Taken together these health concerns result in substantial economic burden in the form of public health costs each year. Research aimed at understanding what causes and influences these disorders has become increasingly important and productive.

Specifically, recent advances in the field of genetics and the growing feasibility of large-scale research collaborations has allowed rapid improvements in the identification of genetic influences associated with mental and physical health disorders. The last decade has seen vast improvements in the time and effort required to generate comprehensive genetic data for individuals and this has led to large genetic datasets through initiatives like the UK Biobank and private companies such as 23andMe. 

The aim of the current study is to use these large datasets and advanced statistical genetics approaches to investigate the extent to which measured genetic variation contributes, individually or together with other related traits, to the development of addiction and related mental (e.g., antisocial personality disorder) and physical health (e.g., chronic pain, obesity) conditions. The methods of this study will also allow researchers to test how specific genes or sets of genes may be causally related to specific addiction outcomes and related physical or mental health problems (e.g., problematic drinking resulting from chronic pain). The long-term aim of the proposed study is to aid in the development of precision medicine by characterizing the biological mechanisms that increase risk for these disorders in order to advance tailored prevention and treatment efforts. More immediate public health benefits of such research include the value of contributing to a knowledge base that can help guide future data collection and analysis focused on the development of genetic assessments related to risk for these disorders.

The proposed duration for this project is 36 months. This duration will allow adequate time to obtain and analyze genetic datasets and publish results from these analyses in peer-reviewed journals. The proposed methods and analyses of the current project involve using state-of-the-art statistical genetics approaches to estimate the shared genetic influences of these disorders at the level of single genetic variants, individual genes, and sets of genes representing biological pathways related to addiction.