• Queen Mary University of London
  • Barts Health NHS
  • Bradford NHS
  • Manchester Uni

S00015: Brain consortium for Genes & Health

S00015: Brain consortium for Genes & Health

Lay summary

a. Please provide information on the aims of the proposed research including the research question(s) that you are aiming to answer and the health condition(s) under investigation

Over 1/3rd of the population experience mental health problems during their life. The most common of these are depression and anxiety disorders. Mental illnesses are usually caused by a mix of inherited as well as environmental factors. Neurological disorders, such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis are similar, in that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of the disease. The vast majority of genetic studies in psychiatry and neurology have focused on European ancestry populations. To help lead efforts to study these disorders in non-European ancestry, we would like to find out how many people in the Genes and Health study have mental health and/or neurological problems. Our aim is also to study the biological background of these disorders. To do this, we will use the medical records (primary care or secondary records linked to Genes & Health data for which ethical approval is already granted) to identify individuals who have experienced mental health or neurological problems of interest. We will then test whether any genetic variants are seen more often in these people. Some gene variants have already been linked to these problems through previous research and we will test whether they are also related to these illnesses in the participants of Genes and Health.

b. How will your research improve health?

Mental health and neurological problems are very common. We hope to identify specific needs with respect to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of individuals of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage. Our work could also identify genetic variants that cause these disorders. These could provide insights into the disease development and potentially suggest novel targets for drug development. The findings would have important implications for future research priorities, and for considering social, cultural and ethical issues in the recognition and care of brain disorders of varying types of genetic aetiology.

c. How does your research meet the other purposes of Genes & Health?

Taken together mental and neurological disorders (neuropsychiatric disorders) account for ~½ of the burden of disease. The lack of diversity in genetic studies of psychiatric and neurological disorders has been recognised as a severe problem. For example, there may be genetic variants in Bangladeshi and Pakistani populations that are very strongly associated with neuropsychiatric illness, which are completely absent in other populations. Failure to identify them would mean that there would not be an option to test for these variants in a clinical setting and valuable diagnostic information would be missed. Ultimately, the underrepresentation of non-European ancestry populations could affect who benefits from medical advances through genomic science. Variations by ancestry may hold clues to aetiology, and may also suggest finding of global health significance.

d. Please give a non-technical description of how the research will be undertaken

This study aims to understand the genetic causes of and genetic risks for neuropsychiatric illness in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani populations. This study may mean that we learn more about the genetic causes of these illnesses in all populations, as well as providing specialised knowledge of the illnesses in Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in particular. This information may help us develop new drugs or predictive tests. In the future it may be possible to identify the specific cause of neuropsychiatric illnesses in some families, which would mean that information can be provided about the risk for other family members, and maybe which drugs would be best to choose to treat the family members with mental illness. To do this work, we will go through the medical record data for Genes & Health participants and identify people with mental health and/or neurological problems. We will also look at other common diseases and demographic and social characteristics of the participants We will describe which groups are more often reporting mental health problems. We will then link this information with the genetic data from Genes & Health participants, which consists of data on millions of genetic variants. Our analysis will test whether specific genetic variations are seen more frequently in individuals with mental health problems. We will operate within the rules of Genes and Health. We will ensure that results of our genetic and laboratory studies are anonymous and that participants in the study cannot be identified through these results.

e. Please state the approximate number of volunteers to be included (i.e. whether the full cohort or a subset)

We request access to the full cohort.


Prof. Kamaldeep Bhui QMUL

Dr Nicholas Bass UCL