Genomic Expression and Neuropsychiatric Evaluation Unit

The Genomic Expression and Neuropsychiatric Evaluation Unit (The Gene Unit) is directed by David A. Mrazek, M.D.The unit provides space for three teams of researchers interested in clinical psychiatric studies.

Researchers in the Gene Unit collaborate with other Mayo Clinic investigators to study the links between genomic variability and psychiatric illnesses such as depression, bipolar illness, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Outpatient evaluations of patients and families, clinical drug trials, and multidisciplinary clinical work-ups focus on patients with depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.

New test pairs best drug for patients with depression

Many patients come to Mayo Clinic hoping to find a more effective treatment for their depression. Often, they come to us discouraged by many unsuccessful experiences with a variety of antidepressant drugs.

Under Dr. Mrazek's direction, the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology worked with the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology to develop a new test that helps physicians pair the most effective and least harmful antidepressant drug with an individual patient.

The new test, called p450 microarray analysis, can reveal whether you have one or more genes that interfere with the body's metabolism of antidepressant drugs. In addition, it can give your physician information about which drugs are likely to cause you uncomfortable side effects.

Microarray analysis is a new technology that identifies genes that cause problems with drug metabolism. The test requires a single blood sample.

Refining diagnostic techniques for psychiatric illnesses

Psychiatric diagnosis is traditionally determined through a clinical interview with the patient. Today researchers at Mayo Clinic are looking for ways to systematically gather additional information about the family history of a variety of psychiatric illnesses.

A genetic study using microarray technology is investigating associations between subtypes of depression and problematic genes. We are conducting simple blood tests on multiple generations of families with similar illnesses. Together with what we know about areas of the brain that are associated with psychiatric illness, this study will give us clues about links between genomic variation and psychiatric illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia; and that means being able to target vulnerable populations for early treatment and preventive intervention programs.

Our hope is that the new technology will have application for other psychiatric illnesses and other fields of medicine.