CURRENT PROGRESS IN GENETICS

AND PSYCHOSIS

 

THE MEDICAL DIRECTOR, DR. OLUWAYEMI C. OGUN MAKING HER OPENING REMARKS

 On July 26th and 27th 2017, FNPH Yaba, and the Department of Psychiatry, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in collaboration with the King's College London held an inaugural two day workshop entitled: “ Current Progress in Genetics of Psychosis - Where do we go from here?”The workshop was declared opened by the medical director of FNPH, Dr (Mrs.) O.C Ogun on Wednesday, 26th of July 2017. In attendance were the members of the Top Management Committee (TMC) of FNPH Yaba including Dr O.A.Owoeye (Head of Clinical Services), Mr Antwi (Director of Administration) among others. Other senior faculty members present included Prof. O.F. Aina, (Head of Department, department of Psychiatry, LUTH), Consultants Psychiatrists of FNPH Yaba and LUTH, Head of departments and units of FNPH and Yaba. Consultants from various sister institutions also attended, as did lecturers, masters and PHD students from the departments of Cell Biology and Genetics, and Psychology (UNILAG). Representatives Mental Health Foundations also attended.The workshop sessions began with a session entitled: “ Introduction to Psychosis”,  by Dr. Abosede A. Adegbohun.This was followed by a presentation from Dr. Idowu A. Taiwo, of the department of cell biology and genetics, University of Lagos entitled:“ Genetics in medicine: mutations and genetic diseases”.This presentation was delivered with all the clarity and humour that those who have studied under Dr Idowu have come to expect. He skillfully carried the mainly non-scientific audience on a journey into the exciting world of classical genetics and its many and diverse applications.Following Dr, Taiwo's presentation, Dr. Conrad Iyegbe of King's College, gave an equally interesting and motivating talk entitled:“An Introduction to Psychiatric Genetics and a summary of recent developments”.

 

In this talk basic principles of complex disease research and molecular biology were outlined and explained. We learnt that mental disorders such as schizophrenia are multi-factorial, which means there may be a variety of potential pathways to illness that transcend genetic and environmental processes. The genetic component of multi-factorial disease is relatively complex compared to a disorder like Huntington’s Disease which is caused by mutations in a single gene. Psychosis genetic research is primarily devoted to the localisation and identification of multiple genetic factors (both common and rare) that contribute to the burden of cases in the general population. He drew attention to the fact that most genome-wide association study (GWAS) datasets are European, while aggregate measures of genetic risk (ie. the polygenic risk score for schizophrenia) do not extrapolate well beyond European populations. Thus there is a danger that the incoming era of precision medicine will only serve to exacerbate existing inequalities in global mental health.

 

Day 2 kicked off with a presentation on precision medicine by Dr Conrad Iyegbe. This session was a call to action. It was carefully explained that the African genome is the most desirable genetic background on which to map genetic factors given that it contains many more informative alleles than any other population and much shorter regions of allelic correlation (known as ‘linkage disequilibrium’). These two factors mean that loci which contribute to disease can be mapped with a greater degree of precision in African populations. Thus the answer to the question; "Where do we go from here?" necessitates a new afro-centric approach to psychiatric GWAS that will lay the foundations for future endeavours in precision medicine within the psychiatric field and specifically for people of African ancestry.

 

The next talk was by Dr. Taiwo Oduguwa, a Consultant Psychiatrist from FNPHY, who shared her experience of international collaboration through joint ventureship with the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in the USA. Dr Oduguwa described her role as site lead for FNPHY in an active clinical trial which is looking at the safety of clozapine treatment in individuals of African ancestry with benign ethnic neutropenia (BEN), a phenotype observed in up to 30% of cases of African ancestry. Dr Oduguwa also shared lessons from a historical collaboration with these same institutions. In particular one study recruited patients and controls for genetic studies of sequence variation in Yoruba and Igbo populations and its possible relationship with the ‘predictive pursuit’, an endophenotype of schizophrenia. The primary aim being to establish whether an association previously observed in Caucasians could be replicated in this sample.

 

Dr. Campbell of LUTH, closed the workshop session by sharing her experience of a joint Autism screening in Nigeria. This is a large collaborative effort involving Guarantee Trust Bank (Nigeria), Blazing Trials International, (USA) and the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos (CMUL).The Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) annual awareness program commenced seven years ago when GTBank collaborated with Blazing Trails International Team, USA and is still ongoing.

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