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VCU researchers receive $2.1 million grant to investigate genetic markers for schizophrenia

The purpose of the four-year grant is to study DNA methylation as it relates to the development of schizophrenia.

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From VCU Press Release:

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded a $2.1 million grant to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Biomarker Research and Precision Medicine to study potential epigenetic causes of schizophrenia.

The purpose of the four-year grant is to study DNA methylation as it relates to the development of schizophrenia. Methylation is a process that involves small changes to DNA that can be inherited or be the result of environmental factors such as smoking, dietary habits and medical treatment.

“DNA methylation changes over time,” said principal investigator Karolina Aberg, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Biomarker Research and Precision Medicine and assistant professor at VCU School of Pharmacy. “Age is one aspect that changes methylation patterns, but habits like what you eat and drink and how much you exercise can also have an effect.”

People who have schizophrenia tend to have lifestyle differences that are difficult to control for. “For example, schizophrenia patients tend to smoke more,” Aberg said. “So it is difficult to say if the DNA methylation causes schizophrenia or if schizophrenia changes DNA methylation patterns.”

Aberg and her research team hope to unravel that mystery by using high-throughput DNA sequencing technology to study blood and brain tissue samples. The team has 395 infant blood spots from the Karolinska Institute, a Swedish medical university, that were collected before the onset of schizophrenia. The sample allows for the study of case-control differences without having disease as a confounder. The researchers will merge the information they obtain from the infant blood samples with information from almost 1,500 blood samples from Swedish adults and 400 postmortem brain tissue samples. The samples are divided between schizophrenia patients and individuals who did not have the disease. The project involves measuring the status of approximately 28 million possible methylation sites in the human genome using the DNA sequencing technology.

“We are hoping to identify methylation markers in blood that are associated with schizophrenia,” Aberg said. The blood markers could eventually have clinical value and be used to predict schizophrenia risk. “If those markers are also correlated with markers in brain tissue, it could tell us something about the function and why the risk is there.”

The Center for Biomarker Research and Precision Medicine, which is housed in VCU School of Pharmacy, aims to alleviate the burden of mental illness by using genomic technologies to identify molecular markers that can be used to develop new medications and tailor treatments to individual patients. Schizophrenia is a devastating psychiatric disorder, and Aberg expects that ultimately her research will lead to better identification methods and treatments for people who are diagnosed with the disease.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Train Derailment Near Hollywood Cemetery Again

This derailment occurred Friday afternoon. A train also derailed in the same vicinity on June 9th.

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All photos courtesy of RFD Twitter.

Posted by RFD Twitter on July 23rd

At approximately 1:26 p.m., crews responded to an area down the North Bank Trail near Hollywood Cemetery for the report of a train derailment. Once on scene, they found multiple freight cars that had been tipped over. The cars were carrying coal.
Some of the load spilled onto the track and ground in the area, but there was no coal in the water. No injuries reported. The incident was marked under control at 1:59 p.m. and turned over to CSX.

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Suspect Sought in West Clay Street Burglary

At approximately 4:57 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, the man in the photos climbed a wall in the rear of a house, located in the 00 block of West Clay Street, broke into the residence and stole a computer and credit cards.

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Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the individual in the attached photos who is a suspect in a residential burglary that occurred in the Jackson Ward neighborhood last month.

At approximately 4:57 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, the man in the photos climbed a wall in the rear of a house, located in the 00 block of West Clay Street, broke into the residence and stole a computer and credit cards. A photo of his distinctive pink and black sneakers is also attached.

 

Anyone with information about the identity of this person is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective J. Land at (804) 646-3103 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Victim Identified in West Main Street Homicide

At approximately 1:27 a.m., officers were called to the 1900 block of West Main Street for the report of a person shot.

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From RPD:

Richmond Police detectives have identified the victim in Sunday morning’s homicide on West Main Street as Jeffrey Swiney, 20 of North Chesterfield.

At approximately 1:27 a.m., officers were called to the 1900 block of West Main Street for the report of a person shot. Officers arrived and found an adult male, Swiney, suffering from an apparent gunshot wound, down and unresponsive in a parking lot of a business. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death.

There were several people in the area at the time of the shooting and detectives are asking those at the scene to come forward with information for this continuing investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to call Major Crimes Detective J. Higgins at (804) 646-7570 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

 

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