Young Investigator Grant winner explores genes associated with mental health disorders
Dr Mike Clark, Group Leader at the Centre for Stem Cell Systems and Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, has been awarded a Young Investigator Grant from the US Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.
Mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are often debilitating conditions that cause a significant burden to sufferers, their families and to society. The Young Investigator Grants support the innovative work of early-career scientists with ideas for ground-breaking neurobiological research that seeks to identify causes, improve treatments and develop prevention strategies for mental health disorders.
The genes in our DNA store the instructions for life and it has long been known that our genes play an important role in our risk of developing mental health disorders. To convey their instructions genes must be “switched on”. However, the instructions given by many genes are complex, can vary between different tissues and many genes also issue multiple sets of instructions at the same time.
Mike’s research will use a new technology called Nanopore sequencing to decipher the instructions of the most important risk genes for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, asking where in the brain they are switched on and what instructions they are issuing. To do this he will utilize a unique resource of very high-quality human brain tissue and investigate risk genes across many brain regions.
Mike’s findings will help scientists to understand what the instructions of each gene are and how changes to them can cause disease, moving us closer to understanding the genetic underpinnings of mental health disorders and enabling research into novel treatments.
This project will be undertaken in collaboration with the University of Melbourne’s Department of Psychiatry and Oxford University.
Mike recently joined the Centre for Stem Cell Systems after four years at the University of Oxford. His research fuses transcriptomics and neuroscience to investigate gene structure, expression and function in the human brain.