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Psychiatric Genomics

The Center for Psychiatric Genetics (CPG) focuses on the genetic factors that contribute to mental health and illness. The CPG conducts a variety of highly analytical and innovative research projects including transcriptomics of schizophrenia; generation and analysis of pluripotent stems cells and neuronal derivatives as simple models to study the biology of schizophrenia; and genome-wide linkage and association studies to understand the biology of sexual orientation.

An internationally prominent researcher, Pablo Gejman, MD, leads the Research Institute’s CPG. A recipient of one of the largest National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grants awarded to a psychiatrist, Dr. Gejman’s primary research interests are clinical and biological inherited factors in major psychiatric disorders; molecular genetic diversity and psychopharmacology; and pharmacogenetics. Current externally (NIH) funded grants supporting this work, include R01MH094091 and R01MH098059 (transcriptomics), R01MH100915 (sequencing), and R21MH102685 and R01MH106575 (induced pluripotent stems cells).

For many years, a main thrust of this research has centered on the study of the genetics of schizophrenia. A chronic, debilitating brain disorder, schizophrenia affects 70 million people worldwide. Finding a cure and preventing the disorder are the main goals of psychiatric research in this area. Schizophrenia is a complex disorder thought to be caused by a combination of multiple genetic and non-genetic (environmental) factors. Dr. Gejman directs some of the largest and most comprehensive genetic experiments currently conducted in the field. In the late ‘90s, the Gejman lab was the first to uncover a lead gene that causes schizophrenia in chromosome 6q.

Subsequent studies targeted potential susceptibility genes in chromosome 8p. Dr. Gejman also directed the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) in schizophrenia at the time (2009) and subsequent GWAS meta-analyses (2011), work which has expanded and continued to revolutionize the field.  Additional experiments have included the functional consequences of synonymous codon usage and its effects on mRNA primary structure for the expression of genes of the G protein-coupled receptor family. These studies have gathered wide interest in the human molecular genetics and the molecular evolution fields.