We study psychiatric disorders with a focus on neurodevelopmental disorders, using Next-Generation sequencing technology and stem cell biology.
There are three main themes in the lab:
1) Identification of genetic variation associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. This involves recruiting patients and their families, collecting blood, skin, and possibly other tissue samples, and using high throughput technologies to identify genetic variation. We work collaboratively with families that choose to share their stories with us.
Generally, we receive referrals from Children's hospitals in Canada where current genetic analyses at these facilities have failed to identify any variant of interest. We take a comprehensive approach to each case. Once a genetic variant that might cause disease has been identified by our group, we convert patient skin skin cells to neurons using state-of-the-art stem cell biology techniques which allows us to study the function of the genetic variant in brain-like cells. Working closely with the Brain Bank at the Douglas hospital, we ask families to consider brain donation as well, depending on their own particular circumstances, which can significantly improve our understanding of the biology of neurodevelopmental disease.
2) Molecular studies of gene dosage. Molecular studies in our group focus on understanding why genetic dosage (amount of gene product) is fundamental to proper development of the nervous system.
3) Epigenetic studies of drug response. Using human brain tissue or blood samples, we study modifications to the genome that may be related to drugs of abuse such as cocaine, or psychotropic medications such as antidepressants.