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NIMH to Fund Center for Genomic Studies of Mental Disorders

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Mental Health plans to provide up to $9 million per year for as many as five years to fund a new center that will be a resource for accelerating research into genes that may be involved in mental disorders.

The Center for Genomic Studies on Mental Disorders will expand research resources that support the NIMH Human Genetics Initiative and will make them freely and openly available to the research community.

The center will support research in a range of areas, will provide information from genomic sequencing studies, gene expression experiments, and in silico genomics research, and will share data that can speed up gene discovery for a range of mental disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, autism-related spectrum disorders, bipolar and related mood disorders, schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders, and others.

It will provide a genomic infrastructure to enable access to distributed data, software, and other information resources supporting studies of genes potentially involved in mental disorders.

The center also will house a team of investigators with expertise in molecular biology, cell culture, computer and information sciences, statistical genetics, and psychiatric genetics, and it will provide banking of primary cultures of source cells used for deriving induced pluripotent stem cells.

NIMH launched the Human Genetics Initiative in the late 1980's with the aim of characterizing the genetic basis of vulnerability to diseases, such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, and bipolar disorder by creating a national scientific resource of clinical and genetic information and samples.

In 1997, a working group of the National Advisory Mental Health Council recommended that NIMH continue to fund large-scale data collection efforts and to maintain a DNA repository and clinical data for sharing with the scientific community. In 2000, advisory councils at NIMH and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommended that the institutes support data sharing for genetic analysis of complex diseases.

The research topics, functions, and services the center will conduct include, but are not limited to, exploration of discrepancies in characterization of DNA markers and statistical methods; receipt of blood samples and cell line immortalization and clinical and genetic data files; development of a genomic cyberinfrastructure that provides tools and web services for data integration, management, modeling, simulation, and visualization; creation of cell lines from fresh whole blood samples and extraction of high-quality DNA; establishment and distribution of pedigree datasets in which genome scans and analyses are used to determine non-Mendelian inheritances; and creation of tools and graphical user interfaces for integrating multiple data sources that connect genetics, genomics, and biological databases with those at the center.