Genomics of unipolar disorder

Coordinator:    Prof. Dr. Dr. med. Dr. h. c. Florian Holsboer
Institution: Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie, München
Patients suffering from unipolar disorder (Major depression) encounter episodes with symptoms such as sad mood, loss of interest and energy, cognitive impairment, insomnia and loss of appetite. The factors leading to the development of depression are largely unknown, however, a heritability of about 40% suggests genetic factors to play an important role in the etiology of this common disorder.
The search for susceptibility genes for unipolar depression has so far been only moderately successful: Some interesting findings have been reported, but no single gene has been unequivocally confirmed to be associated with this disorder. It is the aim of this study to overcome the limitations of the candidate gene approach by applying a whole genome approach. Such an approach with large samples of patients and controls may lead to the identification of genes or regions of the genome that have not been implicated so far in the causality of depression. The most intriguing findings of the first case/control study will be analyzed in a second independent study in order to sort out spurious associations. Findings showing up significantly in both case/control studies will be further analyzed and investigated regarding their role in the pathophysiology of depression.
In the MooDS consortium, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are also investigated regarding susceptibility genes. Due to the observation of overlapping symptoms among these disorders, it has been suggested that they might share at least some genetic commonalities.
It is the aim of this project - by performing large-scale genetic studies - to elucidate the processes leading to the development of these disorders and to propose novel therapeutic strategies for a better treatment of psychiatric patients.
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