- Gene and Environmental Interplay


Vision: The project will explore the nongenetic risk factors linked to mental disorders by examining genome material in Danish neonatal blood spots. In collaboration with co-investigators Naomi Wray and Peter Visscher from Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), Theme 2 seeks to seed the next wave of innovation by utilising cutting edge developments in statistical genetics.

Background: Schizophrenia share common genetic variations with other mental diseases such as bipolar disorder and depression. Researchers are able to calculate how much of the risk for developing mental disorders can be traced to genes. In recent years there have been major developments based on genome-wide metrics that can capture disease risk estimates even without knowing the exact nature of the individual common genetic variants. Co-investigators Naomi Wray and Peter Visscher have develop innovative methods. As an example their 2009 Nature paper found that polygene scores based on schizophrenia risk not only showed highly significant association with case-control status in an independent sample, but could also predict bipolar disorder versus well controls. The results were ‘disruptive’ for the field, as the study provided convincing evidence of shared genetic architecture between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The last 5 years have seen unprecedented international collaboration in genetic studies. However, it is rare to find datasets that contain a detailed genotype and information on environmental exposures. This is a major strength of the collaboration between QBI, NCRR and the Statens Serum Institute.

Scope of new work: The NBP Team will explore new ways to combine developments in statistical genetics (e.g. polygene risk scores) using existing datasets to train the NCCR staff in new techniques developed by the UQ Visscher-Wray group. The novelty and scope of the data means that new methodology and software will be developed. Focus will be on neonatal vitamin D as the exposure of interest, however, these methods will also be generalizable to other exposures (e.g. infection, obstetric complications).

Key co-investigators: Naomi Wray (QBI), Peter Visscher (QBI), Esben Agerbo (NCRR), Preben Bo Mortensen (NCRR) and David Hougaard (SSI).