HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – HudsonAlpha will host some brilliant minds this week at a conference for immunogenomics, just in time to announce they will take part in an enormous study of the genetics of bipolar and schizophrenic patients.
They’ll up the total sample size studied in this chain of labs from around 4,000 patients to as many as 20,000.
HudsonAlpha Genomics Sequencing Lab Director Shawn Levy explains, “By analyzing literally thousands of people, we can start to control for all of those variables and really start asking those questions of . . . does it make a difference what ethnicity a person is? Or does it make a difference of age? Or even lifestyle choice.”
The studies mark a watershed moment for mental illness.
“Look at it more similar to what happened to cancer a decade ago or a couple decades ago, where cancer became a bucket diagnosis,” Levy elaborates, “Where breast cancer was considered one disease; colon cancer was considered one disease. Whereas now we understand that there’s many different types of breast cancer to benefit from different treatments. Same thing with other types of cancer, and mental health disorders are really no different.”
Because when it comes to research, genomics provide a unique window for these issues.
Levy adds, “So unlike cancer where you can do a biopsy, and you can look under a microscope at what it looks like, you really can’t do that with mental health disorders.”
But with so many breakthroughs and brilliant minds working on the issues, you can bet they’ll soon be able to paint a more complete picture.
Across the country, a few dozen researchers will tackle the study of tens of thousands of patients over the next few years.