Genetic links to schizophrenia focus of international study

NIHM awards UCLA/Utrecht researcher $3.8 million

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded Roel A. Ophoff, Ph.D., assistant professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, a $3.8 million grant to lead a four-year genetic study of schizophrenia in collaboration with scientists from the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Ophoff is also an associate professor of medical genetics and a member of the Rudolph Magnus Institute for Neuroscience at UMC Utrecht.

The joint project will be among the first to study the complete human genome -- the full set of human genes -- in order to pinpoint those related to schizophrenia. Ophoff and his colleagues will scrutinize the genomes of approximately 850 Dutch schizophrenia patients and 750 control subjects.

"This genome-wide study is a radical departure from previous disease-association research, which focused on a single gene or a limited number of positions on the chromosome based on a small sample," explained Ophoff, a researcher at UCLA's Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics of the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

"Our approach will enable us to separate false clues from the real genes and chromosome positions associated with schizophrenia," he said. "Once we identify the true genetic variants for the disease, we will be able to expand the study from Europeans to other ethnic populations."

Deciphering the disorder's genetic basis will benefit patients by improving diagnosis and potentially point to new and better therapies to treat schizophrenia, he noted.

The UCLA/UMC Utrecht team has collected extensive clinical information, including brain imaging, that will enable the researchers to expand their focus beyond the subjects' disease status. The international collaboration will afford access to a homogenous Dutch population and the opportunity for future follow-up with the same patients.

UCLA will create a database to make the study's DNA and clinical data available for future use by the scientific community. The large-scale genotyping will be performed at the high-volume facility of the Southern California Genotyping Consortium at UCLA.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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