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.
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.
Induced pluripotent stem cell (IPSC)–based methods have become important research tools for developmental biology and molecular medicine. Reprogramming of somatic cells of either healthy or diseased individuals by the application of specific transgenes results in pluripotent and self-renewable cell lines that can be used to generate different cell types in vitro while still maintaining the genetic architecture of the donor.
Importance Genome-wide hypothesis-free discovery methods have identified loci that are associated with heavy smoking in adulthood. Research is needed to understand developmental processes that link newly discovered genetic risks with adult heavy smoking. Objective To test how genetic risks discovered in genome-wide association studies of adult smoking influence the developmental progression of smoking behavior from initiation through conversion to daily smoking, progression to heavy smoking, nicotine dependence, and struggles with cessation