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Rutgers to Use $2.4M Grant to Search for Genes Linked to Suicide Risk

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Rutgers Cell and DNA Repository, or RUCDR, has landed a $2.4 million grant from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine to study mental health risk among service men and women.

The Rutgers University researchers plan to use the award to study the genomes of service members who are considered at risk for suicide and other mental health issues, the university said Saturday.

The project is part of the US Army's Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers initiative, or Army STARRS, which is examining the lives and mental health of 55,000 active duty soldiers. Blood samples from the participants have already been collected and stored in the RUCDR.

Rutgers said that military suicide rates have historically been lower than in civilian populations, but "since 2002 the suicide rates among soldiers have increased significantly," and increased by 80 percent between 2004 and 2008.

The STARRS project, which launched in 2009, seeks to determine why some soldiers are at increased risk for suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, and why others are more resilient to chronic stress.

"Determining whether there is a genetic predisposition to these mental health disorders is crucial to decreasing the risk of suicide and PTSD in our soldiers," Rutgers Professor Jay Tischfield, director of the Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey, said in a statement. "This award may help shed light on the biological basis of these mental health risks."

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