research.

Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Medical School have teamed with the University of Southern California and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT for a four-year, $16 million study to better understanding bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

It is the largest study of its kind funded to date, and the National Institute of Mental Health will provide the funding.

U-M will work with the partnering institutions to study the genetic material of 10,000 people of European, Hispanic and African-American descent. Researchers will study whole genome sequencing, where they will read all 3 billion pairs of DNA in each subject.

“We hope to gain a better understanding of these diseases that directly affect 1 percent of the population, but impact countless friends and relatives,” Michael Boehnke, principal investigator and director of the Center for Statistical Genetics, said in a statement.

“From what we learn, we hope we can identify better targets for drug development or better targets for the drugs we now have. We also could imagine improving our ability to predict who might get these diseases.”

Boehnke said the collaboration builds on previous research by these same investigators. They worked together on a smaller genome sequencing project, and each has a specific role in the work that begins this month.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes mood shifts, and dramatic ups and downs in energy and activity level.

Schizophrenia is also a brain disorder that can cause people to have irrational fears, and other reports suggest that people who suffer from this disease have the feeling that people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting against them.

There is clinical and genetic evidence of overlap of these illnesses, researchers say, which is cause for emphasizing the importance of a combined genetic analysis.

Symptoms of these disorders impact personal, social and vocational capabilities due to ongoing and fluctuating symptoms. Researchers say that suicide occurs in as many as 20 percent of cases.

Both conditions can be genetic and are thought to result from interactions between biological and environmental factors.”

Original article published on mLive.

Read a similar news release from USC’s Keck School of Medicine here.

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