The Danish 22q11 research initiative

Henriette Schmock, Anders Vangkilde, Kit Melissa Larsen, Elvira Fischer, Michelle Rosgaard Birknow, Jens Richardt Møllegaard Jepsen, Charlotte Olesen, Flemming Skovby, Kerstin Jessica Plessen, Morten Mørup, Ollie Hulme, William Frans Christiaan Baare, Michael Didriksen, Hartwig Roman Siebner, Thomas Werge, Line Olsen

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Background: Neurodevelopmental brain disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are complex disorders with heterogeneous etiologies. Schizophrenia and autism are difficult to treat and often cause major individual suffering largely owing to our limited understanding of the disease biology. Thus our understanding of the biological pathogenesis needs to be substantiated to enable development of more targeted treatment options with improved efficacy. Insights into the pre-morbid disease dynamics, the morbid condition and the underlying biological disease mechanisms may come from studies of subjects with homogenous etiologies. Breakthroughs in psychiatric genetics have shown that several genetic anomalies predispose for neurodevelopmental brain disorders. We have established a Danish research initiative to study the common microdeletion at chromosome 22q11.2, which is one of the genetic anomalies that confer high risk of schizophrenia, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Methods/design: The study applies a "cause-to-outcome" strategy to identify pre-morbid pathogenesis and underlying biological disease mechanisms of psychosis and secondarily the morbid condition of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. We use a population based epidemiological design to inform on disease prevalence, environmental risk factors and familial disposition for mental health disorders and a case control study design to map the functional effects across behavioral and neurophysiological traits of the 22q11 deletion in a recruited sample of Danish individuals.

Discussion: Identification of predictive pre-morbid clinical, cognitive, functional and structural brain alterations in 22q11 deletion carriers may alter current clinical practice from symptomatic therapy of manifest mental illness into early intervention strategies, which may also be applicable to at risk subjects without known etiology. Hopefully new insights into the biological disease mechanisms, which are mandatory for novel drug developments, can improve the outcome of the pharmacological interventions in psychiatry.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15:220
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-12
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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