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Approved Research

Sleep Disturbances in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in the UK Biobank: Focus on Mitochondria

Principal Investigator: Dr James Kennedy
Approved Research ID: 62458
Approval date: September 29th 2020

Lay summary

Approximately three quarters of individuals suffering from depression experience sleep problems. Unfortunately, these sleep problems lead to additional issues, such as an increased risk of suicide. Research suggests that sleep is largely controlled by our genes. Studies of the brain's electrical activity have shown several alterations in the sleep of depressed individuals. Despite this work, our understanding of the genetics of these comorbid sleep disturbances is poorly understood. Our lab has found promise in some genes when we performed a preliminary investigation in our own sample from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. As such, we aim to: 1) extend upon these findings in the UK Biobank, 2) pool multiple samples to investigate whether any genes can be linked to this problematic sleep in depressed individuals in the largest sample yet, 3) examine whether there are groups of genetic markers associated with sleep problems that can be used to predict someone's risk of developing depression and 4) determine whether any alterations in sleep patterns can be detected in individuals using depression from data collected from a wearable activity tracker. If so, we would explore further and investigate whether any genes can be linked to these altered sleep patterns. As such, we are seeking access to the UK Biobank data for six months.

Our research will provide invaluable information to an area of study that addresses an unmet need, and thus warrants significant investigation. The results of this study may allow us to identify 1) one or more biological subtypes of depression and 2) individuals who are genetically at risk of suffering from sleep disturbances and depression. Therefore, this work could lead to substantial improvements in diagnostics and prevention strategies. For example, when sleep disturbances and genetics are identified early on, preventative measures can be initiated before the depression develops. Overall, the study outlined in this proposal has the potential to help millions of people worldwide, but we need access to the UK Biobank's data in order to do this.