According to the World Health Organization as many as 450 million people worldwide suffer from psychiatric disorders, making them a substantial proportion of the global health burden. The resulting strain on these individuals and society highlights the need for new therapies to alleviate suffering.
Family and twin studies have shown a strong heritability of psychiatric disorders, but findings from large-scale genome wide studies explain only a small proportion of that inheritance. A newly discovered feature of neuronal diversity, de novo somatic mutations, has emerged as a leading hypothesis to explain this “missing” or unexplained heritability. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has funded the Brain Somatic Mosaicism Network (BSMN) program with the goal of accelerating the discovery of a range of somatic genomic variations across human brain cell and tissue types and elucidating its role in the development of mental illnesses. This effort will generate large data sets for the broader scientific community with the aim of identifying new therapeutic targets for neurological disease.
The BSMN is a multi-site effort comprised of six project nodes that will use advances in DNA sequencing, single-cell genomics, computational biology, and genome engineering to determine the extent of somatic mosaicism in normal brains and neuropsychiatric disorders. These projects will generate large data sets for the broader scientific community and provide data integration with other NIMH initiatives. Information about data releases will be posted to this site.