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Approved research

Metabolic and psychiatric genetics of eating disorders, BMI and obesity

Principal Investigator: Dr Gerome Breen
Approved Research ID: 27546
Approval date: March 1st 2017

Lay summary

We aim to identify DNA changes associated with body composition, physical and metabolic traits, eating disorders (ED) and obesity. ED share common genetic variants with metabolic traits. Anorexia nervosa (AN) shows an inverse genetic correlation with BMI. BMI is associated with CNS genes.The genetic overlap across ED, BMI, psychiatric disorders, physical diseases and traits may elucidate the underlying biology. Predictive models will seek to identify individuals who are at risk and to develop personalised interventions for ED. The UK Biobank is of considerable value in understanding environmental risk factors, such as physical activity levels and diet patterns. ED and obesity, which has an neuropsychiatric component, are associated with excess morbidity, mortality, increased familial, social and economic burden. AN has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. ED are poorly understood. However, neuropsychiatric disorders are genetically influenced. Individuals with a genetic liability face symptom inducing environmental pressures. If these symptoms exceed a certain threshold, this individual may be diagnosed as mentally or physically ill. Identifying genetic, metabolic and environmental risk factors enables healthcare professionals to intervene at any stage to guarantee prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The identification of genetic variants may lead to the development of drugs. We will perform genome-wide association studies, testing DNA variants for their association with body weight, body composition, different traits and disorders. We will examine how these relate to ED. The body imaging data and other measures will be used. This will allow the detection of biological pathways involved in appetite regulation, body composition and metabolic traits disturbed in AN and in obesity. We will include genetic and environmental factors into models to predict case status and severity and will replicate it in the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium data. We will explore the genetic overlap between ED and associated physical disorders. Full cohort