The National Institutes of Health has awarded $22.5 million to a team of scientists centered at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA to fund the Consortium for Neuropsychiatric Phenomics (CNP), an interdisciplinary, campuswide effort to understand the biology underlying a variety of mental disorders.
Phenomics is the study of an organisms full complement of phenotypes those manifest characteristics, ranging from single proteins to anatomical traits and complex behaviors, that result from the organisms genetic makeup and environment, said Robert Bilder, UCLA professor of psychiatry and director of the new consortium. Understanding an organisms phenotype is the next logical step following the recent decoding the human genome. That decoding effort, which discerned the DNA sequences that form the basic instructions for biological processes, was designed to enable the identification of genetic variations responsible for the major diseases that plague humankind.
Phenomics takes a more holistic viewpoint, Bilder said. To understand how these genetic variations are associated with disease now requires the decoding of the human phenome, the sum of the physical and behavioral manifestations of those genetic variations and how they interact with the environment.
Understanding the fundamental biological bases of neuropsychiatric disease from the molecule to the mind is an enormous challenge and will offer a grand challenge to biomedical research for the rest of the century, he said.
Currently, psychiatrists do not possess the types of laboratory tests or biological models that can be useful in studying these disorders, Bilder said.
The diagnostic systems we have in place are widely acknowledged to be flawed, because the phenotypes we have are not based on research but are descriptive, he said. That is, they are based on symptoms we usually learned about, ironically, from asking patients who have d
|Contact: Mark Wheeler|
University of California - Los Angeles