First Large Genetic Study of Bipolar Disorder in Asian Populations by Prof. Po-Hsiu Kuo and Global Teams

Date: 2022/11/10

Image1:A-BIG-NET—Asian Bipolar Genetics Network.Image2:Professor Po-Hsiu Kuo.

A-BIG-NET—Asian Bipolar Genetics Network.

Professor Po-Hsiu Kuo.

Bipolar disorder (BP) is a severe multifactorial neuropsychiatric disorder, which affects approximately 1-2% of population. Its clear genetic architecture is yet to be identified. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population is Asian, but only 10 percent of participants of genetic studies are of Asian descent, while the majority of previous samples were of European ancestry. This lacks of representation in genetic datasets leaves out a huge amount of genomic variation, limiting what scientists can learn about the biological basis of mental disorders. The team hopes to uncover the biological causes and mechanisms of BP in Asian that are more prominent in these groups than in others, which may highlight genetic roots of the disorder that are shared across other populations around the world. Better insight into the causes of BP could lead to new and more tailored treatments.

A-BIG-NET project is the first large genetic study of BP in Asian populations, a collaboration between the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (led by Hailiang Huang), National Taiwan University (led by Po-Hsiu Kuo), Virginia Commonwealth University (led by Kenneth Kendler), and Johns Hopkins University (led by Peter Zandi). The National Institute of Mental Health provides funding for five years research. This network also includes researchers in India, Singapore, Korea, and Pakistan’s team. They will work together to recruit the participants, sequence the genomes, analyze the data, and build a network for data-sharing.

“Taiwan is often excluded from a number of major international organizations and actions. We’re very glad to be part of the global diversity initiative and to contribute to enhancing our understanding of a severe psychiatric disorder and reducing health inequity in the long run,” said the project’s co-lead, Po-Hsiu Kuo, Associate Dean of College of Public Health, and a Professor at Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, National Taiwan University. The Taiwan team of this project will collect patients and controls in northern, central and southern Taiwan, which co-lead by Doctor Hsi-Chung Chen (Department of psychiatry, National Taiwan University Hospital), and Professor Wei J. Chen (Director of Center for Neuropsychiatric Research in National Health Research Institutes).

A-BIG-NET will collect and analyze DNA from 27,500 BP patients and 15,000 controls with a recently developed sequencing technology to cover the exome and the rest of the genome. Clinical information and a range of environmental risk factors will also be collected, which permit us to further clarify how genes and environment jointly act or interact to develop BP. These data can be jointly analyzed with data from European, African, and Latino for cross-populations and cross-disorders studies. We anticipate that the results of A-BIG-NET would largely contribute to enhancing our knowledge of the molecular and genetic basis of bipolar illness.

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