Thesis award for Anaïs Thijssen

Congratulations to GENE Amsterdam member Anaïs Thijssen who wins the Jan Brouwer award (€2.000) for her Master thesis entitled The Darwinian paradox of psychiatric disorders: Combining multiple evolutionary theories using genetic analyses. See here pictures and a movie of the ceremony:

Celebrating 15 years of GWAS discoveries

In 2022, it has been 15 years since the first well-designed genome-wide association study (GWAS). Abdel Abdellaoui and Karin Verweij from Amsterdam UMC together with Loic Yengo and Peter Visscher from the University of Queensland celebrate this with an extensive review in American Journal of Human Genetics titled “15 years of GWAS discovery: Realizing the promise”. They review how GWAS facilitated an impressive range of discoveries impacting multiple fields, including complex trait genetics, population genetics, epidemiology, social science, and medicine. They discuss a wide range of topics, including the evolution of complex traits and disease risk, increasingly predictive polygenic scores, mate choice, clinical applications such as embryo selection and gene editing, and the expansion of genomics to more global populations and rare genetic variants. Read more on 15 years since the advent of the revolutionary GWAS design here:

The power of sample size

Exploring the genetic overlap among twelve psychiatric disorders

In a study published in Nature Genetics, Cato Romero, Mats Nagel, and Sophie van der Sluis teamed up with colleagues from the Complex Trait Genetics department and the Million Veteran Program to scrutinize the genetic similarity of twelve psychiatric disorders. 

Comorbidity among psychiatric disorders could be due to different disorders sharing the same genetic risk factors. Pinpointing genetic variants and biological processes shared between psychiatric disorders is essential to improve treatment of these debilitating disorders and can potentially even lead to genetically informed therapy (e.g., drug development, drug repurposing) and genetically informed adaptation of our diagnostic system.

In the paper by Romero et al., considerable genetic overlap was detected between psychiatric disorders in the form genetic variants (SNPs), genes, and genomic regions, to overlapping functional annotations; however, the majority of overlap was between pairs of psychiatric disorders. Only genomic regions related to evolutionary conservation were associated to most (9 out of 12) psychiatric disorders, which suggests genetic variation in essential biological processes as a common feature of psychiatric disorders.

Beyond the degree of genetic overlap, Romero et al. showed that variation in statistical power and genetic architecture crucially determines the potential success of future cross-trait genetic research. As more and more genetic data is being collected and shared, it is a matter of time before circumstances for genetic comorbidity research improve to live up to its potential.

Global genetic correlations between the twelve psychiatric disorders.