An international collaboration involving Emory has received a $12 million grant to study the genetics of schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.

According to an Oct. 1 University press release, the study focuses on schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders related to the chromosome 22q11.12 deletion syndrome.

The collaboration, called the International Consortium on Brain and Behavior in 22q11.12 Deletion Syndrome, is an international effort involving 22 institutions across the world.

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded more than half of the grant to Emory who will lead the genetic research portion of the study, the press release says.

22q11.2 deletion syndrome is found in 1 in 4,000 live births and can affect any part of the body including heart abnormalities, poor immune system, seizures and others, according to the press release. However, some people with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome have none of these particular medical issues and suffer instead from cognitive disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety.

According to the press release, people with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome are at an increased risk for developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. Despite being the highest known genetic risk factor for schizophrenia, little is known about the mechanism.

“By sequencing the entire genomes of 1,000 patients with this syndrome, some with and some without psychosis, we hope to uncover variation elsewhere in the genome that contributes to psychosis risk, not only in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome but also in idiopathic psychosis,” lead investigator Stephen Warren, chair of the Department of Human Genetics and the William P. Timmie Professor and Charles Howard Candler Chair of Human Genetics at Emory University School of Medicine, said in the press release.

The genomic research will include whole-genome sequencing to find genetic variation that may contribute to the wide range of severity of neuro-related diseases such as schizophrenia and psychosis.

The results will also help identify other mechanisms leading to schizophrenia in the general population, the press release states.

“The project is an unprecedented international initiative to examine a common deletion associated with schizophrenia and elucidate its genomic and behavioral substrates,” Warren said in the press release.

–By Mallika Manyapu

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