Director’s Blog I don’t know why or how April 25th, the day after Earth Day and the day before Save the Frogs Day (really), was named National DNA Day, but once again we have a reason to celebrate the basic language of biology. In fact, this has been a good year for DNA—that 3 billion base-pair long sequence of nucleotides which constitute the building blocks for the 23 pairs of chromosomes found in almost every human cell.

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Director’s Blog Every cell in your body has the same DNA with about 23, 000 genes. Yet blood cells and brain cells look different, have different proteins, and serve very different functions.

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Over the past 6 months we have turned a corner in our studies of the genetic basis of schizophrenia and autism. For years the field of psychiatric genetics has struggled: family and twin studies demonstrated that these disorders were heritable, but findings from small studies reporting specific risk genes could not be replicated. With larger samples and better tools, we have gone from famine to feast, with almost too many genetic findings to follow up.

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Importance Epigenetic studies present unique opportunities to advance schizophrenia research because they can potentially account for many of its clinical features and suggest novel strategies to improve disease management. Objective To identify schizophrenia DNA methylation biomarkers in blood. Design, Setting, and Participants The sample consisted of 759 schizophrenia cases and 738 controls (N?=?1497) collected in Sweden

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Director’s Blog In the years after Francis Crick and James Watson described the double helical structure of DNA, both men became interested in the brain. While Watson searched for the genetics of schizophrenia, Crick became intrigued by consciousness and brain structure.

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Director’s Blog Last week’s autism news was about prevalence. The CDC reported a 78 percent increase in autism prevalence since 2002. This week’s autism news is about genetics— three papers in Nature describe new genes associated with autism

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Importance Genetic markers at the gene encoding the metabotropic glutamate receptor 3 (GRM3) showed allelic association with bipolar disorder. Objective To screen the GRM3 gene and adjacent control regions of genomic DNA in volunteers with bipolar affective disorder for mutations increasing susceptibility to bipolar disorder. Design Sequencing and high-resolution melting curve analysis of DNA followed by genotyping was carried out in 1099 patients with bipolar affective disorder and 1152 healthy comparator individuals.

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Director’s Blog The last days of this long, hot summer are a good time to catch up on a few of the season’s scientific breakthroughs, which have been coming fast and furious during what has been a down time for many people outside of science. What about this week’s story of an increase in spontaneous mutations in children of older dads? We already knew that children with autism and schizophrenia were more likely to have been conceived by fathers over 40

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Director’s Blog Some moments in science are so transformative that they spill out of the usual academic circles to become headlines in the New York Times and, for a day or two, part of a public conversation. This summer we had two such stories from diverse areas of science: the Curiosity landing on Mars and the report of spontaneous mutations transmitted by older fathers. Earlier this month another report – actually 30 separate papers – marked a transformative moment in our discovery of the genome.

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Director’s Blog In another week or so, I will have been director of NIMH for ten years. This is longer than any previous director dating back to the inaugural director, Bob Felix, who served from 1949 to1964. In leadership, longevity is not necessarily a virtue but it does guarantee perspective

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