Explore This Research Lab
Eighty percent of the risk of schizophrenia lies in a person’s genetics, not in one telltale gene but large numbers of them operating in complex combinations. The goals of the Genetics Lab in the Schizophrenia Program at Massachusetts General Hospital are to:
- Identify genes that contribute to schizophrenia symptoms
- Use that knowledge to develop new and better treatments
- Directly involve patients in the search for better treatments
Several ongoing studies offer participants the option of contributing DNA to our database. This allows us to study promising genetic variants as possible predictors of how patients will respond to treatment.
Our goal in collecting this DNA is to gain a better understanding of the neuroscience behind schizophrenia.
The effects of individual genes in schizophrenia are small. We are combining genetic tests with brain imaging, including MRI and PET scans, to "amplify" the signal of schizophrenia risk genes and to determine how they affect brain structure and function.
Ongoing work is determining whether certain psychotic symptoms result in a deficiency in the genes that metabolize folic acid, and if so, whether folate or l-methylfolate supplements might help reduce those symptoms. We are also studying whether vitamin supplementation can help normalize altered patterns of brain activation that are caused by folate-related genes.
Brain Genomics Superstruct Project
We are working with other investigators at Mass General, McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School to generate a large database of brain imaging and genetic information from patients with schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders. This large-scale study will help us to determine similarities and differences between schizophrenia and other illnesses, in the hope of developing better and more specific treatments.
Side Effects of Antipsychotic Drugs
This study investigates whether certain genes can predict if patients taking antipsychotic drugs will experience side-effects such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and how those effects can be minimized.
Joshua Roffman, MD
- Co-Director, Mass General Neuroscience
- Director, Mass General Early Brain Development Initiative
- Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
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