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Approved Research

Identification of biomarkers for resilience to psychopathology.

Principal Investigator: Dr Virginie Freytag
Approved Research ID: 81786
Approval date: March 10th 2022

Lay summary

Depression and anxiety are severely disabling mental disorders causing major burden to individuals and society. This urges the development of new therapeutic options. Exposure to traumatic or potentially stressful events is a major risk factor for the development of such conditions. There are yet substantial individual differences in response to potential stressors, with some people who exhibit severe and long-term impairment while other people manage to positively adapt to the situation and preserve mental health. Most research has focused on the genetic basis of ill-being mental outcomes. Conversely, understanding the mechanisms by which some people can maintain healthy mental functioning following aversity, provides a new window for the development of treatments. Focussing on this resilience capacity in deed allows the identification of possibly active biological mechanisms that promote healthy mental functioning. In turn, activation of these mechanisms in patients with depression or anxiety disorders might represent new promising therapeutic interventions.

Hence with this project we aim at identifying genetic markers for resilience to psychopathology, as a means to gain insights into its underlying molecular and biological processes. Importantly, we will consider resilience towards multiple mental health outcomes including depressive and anxiety related measures as well as well-being assessment, which might have distinct genetic grounds. We will thus derive resilience measures amenable to genetic study, including analysis of the contribution of both common and rare variants to the trait. Finally, we will also capitalize on genetic data to investigate the relationship between resilience capacity and multi-faceted biomarkers including cognitive function, brain structural measures, physical function, and peripheral blood markers. This will allow the delineation of candidate biological or physiological processes at play in people's capacity to cope with adversity and the delivery of new therapeutic interventions for mood and anxiety related disorders. Project completion is expected upon 18 moths following reception of UK Biobank data. All participants with genomic data should be included in this request.