HOUSTON - The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) is currently conducting research addressing the genetics of functional disability of individuals suffering with schizophrenia and bipolar illness.
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are chronic psychiatric diseases associated with considerable lifelong disability. Both conditions are known to have major genetic aspects with possible additional genetic contributions to their course and how they affect patients’ daily lives.
“Genetic testing is a powerful tool to study any given disorder, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” said Rayan Al Jurdi, M.D., a MEDVAMC psychiatrist and an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine. “However, a great many large-scale studies in this area have been curtailed because of the lack of study participants or lack of diversity in the patients studied.”
The goal of the study is to conduct a gene-association analysis, comparing the DNA of 9,000 Veterans with schizophrenia and 9,000 Veterans with bipolar illness to the DNA of approximately 20,000 “mentally healthy” Veterans. This will help researchers discover genetic risk factors related to these disorders.
Researchers also hope to further define functional capacity among patients with schizophrenia and bipolar illness using tests previously shown to be connected to real-world functional disability and to establish a specimen and data repository for future research.
Treatments for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have improved in the last few years, but are still associated with relatively high rates of side effects.
“Genetic studies can also help researchers develop better treatments,” said Al Jurdi. “This is extremely important because suicide attempts and completed suicides are very common in these two populations.”
Veterans who qualify and participate in the study will receive $60 compensation for their time and inconvenience.
If you are a Veteran who has been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar illness, has received treatment for either of these illnesses at the MEDVAMC, and would like to participate in research to enhance understanding and treatment, please contact 713-791-1414, ext. 6911/6910.
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