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Approved research

Discovery and validation of genetic biomarkers to stratify patients with psychiatric disorders based on cognitive impairment.

Principal Investigator: Dr Daniel Hoeppner
Approved Research ID: 43592
Approval date: January 15th 2019

Lay summary

Aim Patients suffering with schizophrenia are currently treated with antipsychotic medications that can help control hallucinations and delusions. This class of symptom represents one of three normally seen in patients. Sadly, the other two types of symptom (inability to enjoy pleasant experiences, and inability to think clearly) are debilitating and lead to loss of employment, personal relationships and frequently also lead to homelessness. As there is no understanding of the root cause of schizophrenia, and no current medication can alter the course of the disease, we aim to target symptoms of schizophrenia that are reflected in the UK Biobank data resource. Scientific Rationale Our previous work with a large US brain tissue biobank identified many genes that are altered in expression in schizophrenia patients compared to normal controls. We have studied the DNA elements that specify expression level of these genes. The UK Biobank has data related to these same DNA elements in people who suffer from cognitive impairment. We wish to use our prior knowledge about the regulation of schizophrenia-risk-related genes and search the UK Biobank for examples of cognitive impairment that will enable us the test our idea that schizophrenia risk genes and cognitive impairment risk genes share the same DNA control elements. Project Duration The proposed research will take roughly three years to complete. Public Health Impact Our long-term goal is to develop new schizophrenia therapies based on these proposed studies. Both physicians and patients are frustrated by the lack of fundamentally new therapies since 1952, when the first antipsychotic medication was discovered. All medications that have followed all work on the same principle of reducing dopamine levels in the brain. This approach does not reverse the course of the disease and does not allow most patients to live normal productive lives. We aim to achieve the ambitious goal of creating new medications that will allow patients to live normal lives.