April 16, 2008 -- Ezra Susser, MD, DrPH, Anna Cheskis Gelman and Murray Charles Gelman Professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and professor of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, was awarded the 2008 Distinguished Investigator Award from NARSAD, the world's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to mental health research. Dr. Susser was selected for a study on famine and the genetics of schizophrenia taking place in China. The $100,000 award will allow Dr. Susser and an international team of researchers including Mary Claire King (University of Washington School of Medicine), David St. Clair (University of Aberdeen) and Lin He (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences) to continue their research on the hypothesis that prenatal exposure to maternal famine increases subsequent risk of schizophrenia, and to better understand the genetic mechanisms underlying this disorder.
The scientists are looking at genetic mutations among persons in China exposed in utero to the 1959-1960 famine and are collecting diagnostic data and DNA samples to evaluate these variations. Although the initial sample will include about 60 individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and their relatives, the research group is also planning for additional funding to assess a much larger sample and appropriate control groups.
In an August 2006 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr. Susser and coauthors, Mary-Claire King and Jack McClellan, discussed how persons conceived during the height of two 20th Century famines experienced increased risk of schizophrenia, compared with unexposed persons, and new developments in uncovering the possible genetic bases. Concurrent to this work, Dr. Susser oversees a series of studies in the United States, known as the Prenatal Determinants of Schizophrenia (PDS), which is connected to a larger program of lifecourse and birth cohort research focused on early influences on adult health. Dr. Susser is also director of the Imprints Center for Genetic and Environmental Lifecourse Studies, at the Mailman School of Public Health and New York State Psychiatric Institute.
|Contact: stephanie berger|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health