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The NIMH Center for Collaborative Genetic Studies

Posted Jan 14 2011 8:04pm

I follow the Director’s blog at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). A recent post is titled Looking forward to 2011

You probably won’t be surprised that I did a search for “autism” in the text. I only found one hit:

Genomics and Other High Throughput Technologies

What happened with computers in the last decade – faster, cheaper, better – is happening with technologies to sequence the human genome today. Once cost prohibitive, the price of DNA sequencing has dropped drastically in the past several years. Soon, whole genome sequencing will become the norm in research. With such precise methodology, this will be the year for discovering many new genetic variants associated with mental disorders. To expedite our discoveries, it will be key to share high quality data produced by these sequencing efforts and to build the computational resources to analyze the impending avalanche of data. The NIMH Center for Collaborative Genetic Studies has become the world’s largest repository for DNA samples from individuals with mental disorders and their families. In 2011, with samples from this repository, along with consortia developed with investigators around the globe, we should get our first comprehensive view of the genomic risk for autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

emphasis added.

It’s an interesting hit. First, the director of NIMH is in a position to know what research is in the pipeline. If he says 2011 should give us our first “comprehensive view” of the genomic risk, I’m willing to bet that something will come out this year. More importantly, I was unaware of the Center for Collaborative Genetic Studies .

Leave aside the genetics part of this for the moment and just take a look through the site. It is a great idea. Making data from multiple investigations available to other researchers.

Here’s the “scientific mission”:

Scientific Mission

Given the major public health implications of identifying genes that contribute to the susceptibility for severe brain disorders, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has funded a Human Genetics Initiative. The goal of this Initiative is to study individuals affected with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or Alzheimer’s disease and their relatives, in order to establish a national resource of clinical/diagnostic information and immortalized cell lines for DNA extraction. These data and biomaterials are distributed to qualified investigators in the wider scientific community, for use in research on the genetic basis of these disorders. The NIMH Human Genetics Initiative is supported by the Office of Human Genetics & Genomic Resources in NIMH’s Division of Neuroscience & Basic Behavioral Science (DNBBS).

Progress in scientific understanding is best achieved by the free and open exchange of knowledge, data, and ideas. The NIMH Human Genetics Initiative was founded on the principle that timely access to primary data and biomaterials for human genetic research may stimulate research and development and maximize the benefits afforded to individuals affected with these disorders and their family members. Progress in these efforts is paralleled by growing interest throughout the scientific community in having timely access to the information and resources that may speed the understanding of disease etiology, refinement of diagnostic systems, and development of novel therapeutic agents and preventive interventions.

The autism page for the site gives a brief statement and links to the autism pages. You can see what papers have already come out of the autism consortium , including many available for download. They have data on sibling pairs, where genetic data on families with families with 2, 3, 4, even 5 ASD kids are included. They are up to revision 7 on the data. You can see what data are in the pipeline in the future releases page. There are a lot of data in the works, with a lot of it coming on line in the next year or 2.

The idea is great. I’d love to hear from researchers as to how well it really works. But the data, the raw data, are being made available to multiple researchers. There are other projects like this out there in autism research.

  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - The NIMH Center for Collaborative Genetic Studies « Left Brain/Right Brain -- Topsy.com:
    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kev. Kev said: The NIMH Center for Collaborative Genetic Studies: I follow the Director’s blog at the National Ins... http://bit.ly/gmRTSs [...]

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