Explore This Laboratory


Associate Professor of Anaesthesia, Harvard Medical School
Principal Investigator at Center for Genomic Medicine and DACCPM, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Member, Broad Institute

Research Areas

  • Circadian/sleep genetics and causal links with common disease
  • Links between circadian system, melatonin genetics and type 2 diabetes
  • Genetics of preeclampsia

Description of Research

Our lab’s research focuses on illuminating biological mechanisms underlying circadian rhythms and sleep and how their disruption impacts risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic disease. We lead collaborative research that is identifying genetic differences between night owls or larks, and differences that contribute to sleep disorders such as insomnia and daytime sleepiness. Our team is exploring biological mechanisms underlying new discoveries that circadian rhythm and sleep disorders share genes and pathways with cardiovascular, metabolic and psychiatric diseases and that insomnia is a causal risk factor for depression and coronary artery disease. Our research program and collaborative research integrates genome-wide human genetic approaches with focused mechanistic investigation and clinical translational studies to understand genetic links between sleep/circadian dysfunction and disease. The overall aim of our research is to define specific mechanisms where targeted interventions for sleep or circadian rhythms could be used to prevent, delay or manage sleep disorders and related human disease.

We also study the genetic basis of adverse pregnancy outcomes preeclampsia and post-partum hemorrhage and their links with cardio-metabolic disease.

Grant Funding

Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport MGH Research Scholar

NIH/NIDDK, NIH/NHLBI, MGH Research Scholars Award, Claflin Distinguished Scholar Award, William Randolph Hearst Fund, Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology

Lab Members

Richa Saxena, Principal Investigator

Junior Faculty: Jacqueline Lane, Kathryn Gray, Vesela Kovacheva

Postdoctoral Fellows: Hassan Dashti, Hanna Ollila

Graduate/Medical Students: Iyas Daghlas, Angus Burns

Undergraduate/Co-op students: Julia Wall, Kara Gilbert

Research Technicians: Brittany Leger*, Benjamin Scammell

Clinical Research Coordinators: Angela Chen

Selected Publications

  1. Wang H et al. […] Saxena R. Genome-wide association analysis of self-reported daytime sleepiness identifies 42 loci that suggest biological subtypes. Nat Commun. 2019 Aug 13; 10(1):3503. PMID: 31409809.
  2. Dashti HS et al. […] Saxena R. Genome-wide association study of breakfast skipping links clock regulation with food timing. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Aug 01; 110(2):473-484. PMID: 31190057.
  3. Dashti HS et al. […] Saxena R. Genome-wide association study identifies genetic loci for self-reported habitual sleep duration supported by accelerometer-derived estimates. Nat Commun. 2019 03 07; 10(1):1100. PMID: 30846698
  4. Lane JM et al. […] Saxena R. Biological and clinical insights from genetics of insomnia symptoms. Nat Genet. 2019 03; 51(3):387-393. PMID: 30804566.
  5. Jones SE et al. […] Saxena R, Weedon MN. Genome-wide association analyses of chronotype in 697,828 individuals provides insights into circadian rhythms. Nat Commun. 2019 01 29; 10(1):343. PMID: 30696823.
  6. Vetter C, Dashti HS et al. […] Saxena R, Scheer FAJL. Night Shift Work, Genetic Risk, and Type 2 Diabetes in the UK Biobank. Diabetes Care. 2018 Apr;41(4):762-769. PMID: 29440150.
  7. Gray KJ, et al. […] Saxena R. Gene-Centric Analysis of Preeclampsia Identifies Maternal Association at PLEKHG1. Hypertension. 2018 Aug;72(2):408-416. PMID: 29967039.
  8. Lane JM, Chang AM et al. […] Scheer FAJL, Saxena R. Impact of Common Diabetes Risk Variant in MTNR1B on Sleep, Circadian, and Melatonin Physiology. Diabetes. 2016 Jun;65(6):1741-51. PMID: 26868293.
FULL LIST OF PUBLICATIONS: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/richa.saxena.1/bibliography/public/