Institute scientists have identified one of the genes involved in the inheritance of both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The gene creates a receptor, a protein on the outside of nerve cells in the brain, which regulates the brain’s ability to attend to sounds. The receptor recognizes the presence of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which allows the nerve cell to tune in wanted sounds and tune out noise. When the gene makes the receptor abnormal, patients resort to an extra stimulus for it, high doses of nicotine which temporarily act like a super dose of acetylcholine. Thus, this genetic abnormality may account for disproportional and unusually heavy smoking by people with mental illness. New treatments to replace nicotine use are being tested at the Institute.
Research faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver have made fundamental discoveries about the neurobiological and genetic causes of severe mental illnesses, including their developmental trajectory from the genesis of the brain during pregnancy through early childhood. These Institute scientists have found an early, safe intervention during pregnancy that may improve a baby’s chances of being born without the deficits that can later lead to mental illness. Institute physicians are treating women with choline, a natural food nutrient and additive, which improves the development of the brain. Longer term studies of choline’s effectiveness in preventing mental illness are currently being conducted with the Institute’s support.
• Obstetrical nursing, patient care, and IT costs to assess choline supplementation of pregnant women and newborns in Colorado. Choline has been shown to normalize abnormalities caused by genes that convey the risk for schizophrenia. The project is approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and supported by the National Institute of Mental Health Conte Center.
• Initial grant support for the development of a joint New York University and University of Colorado Denver crisis care program for pregnant women experiencing natural disasters or the effects of military conflict.
• Support for joint University of Colorado Denver and New York University exploratory analysis of the effects of an experimental medication, DMXB-A, on patients with schizophrenia who use nicotine. DMXB-A was developed at the Institute as a new therapeutic treatment of schizophrenia and has U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval for advanced testing. The project is also supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.
• Joint Institute for Children’s Mental Disorders and New York University re-analysis of genetic data to separate familial from non-familial schizophrenia.
• The Institute for Children's Mental Disorders does not accept unsolicited grant proposals.
• Letters of inquiry may be sent by mail to the attention of the Executive Director. The letter should include a description of the proposed research, including stated goals and objectives; name, credentials, and affiliations of principal investigator(s); location of research; project budget with funding requirements and sources.
• Inquiries who are then invited to submit a full proposal and grant application will be notified in writing. The Institute accepts the Colorado Common Grant Application, or similar formats.