The Division of Psychiatric Genetics currently comprises faculty, fellows, students, researchers, and administrative staff who focus on the understanding of the genetic and environmental factors which contribute to the development of mental illnesses. The Division is organized around a Center for Psychiatric Genetics Research (led by Dr. Michael Escamilla) and a Program for Genetic Epidemiology (led by Dr. Douglas Williamson). The overall mission of the Division is to fulfill the mission of the UTHSCSA, specifically with regard to our area of expertise (genetics of psychiatric illnesses).
The South Texas Psychiatric Genetics Research Center (STPGRC) strives to:
- Improve the quality of life for psychiatric patients through locating and identifying genes associated with mental illness,
- Identify those at risk for developing mental illness,
- Develop psychiatric treatment strategies based on genetic information (pharmaco-genetics),
- Create preventive treatments for the psychiatric population,
- Educate the public about mental disorders, and Serve as a national center of expertise on Psychiatric Genetics research, with a special focus on Latin American populations.
- Provide mentoring programs and training for future generations of scientific researchers and mental healthcare professionals.
The South Texas Psychiatric Genetics Research Center believes the exploration of human life, including its genetic foundations, must be conducted according to safe, confidential, and ethical standards
The principle mission of the Psychiatric Genetics Division is research and teaching, and interaction with other divisions who are interested in collaborations involving genetic research. Several faculty of the Psychiatric Genetics Center (Drs. Dassori, Escamilla, Thompson) also evaluate and treat patients on a limited basis, in both inpatient and outpatent settings.
The Psychiatric Genetics Division currently supports research in a number of areas, primarily through funding from the National Institutes of Health. Current studies include: genetic and envionmental factors of depression and substance abuse in adolescents, the genetic basis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, genetic epidemiology studies of children and adults in the South Texas population, genetics of cognition, endophenotype (intermediate phenotypes) studies of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, proteomic analyses, pharmacogenetic research, and genetic linkage and association studies of psychiatric illnesses. Modalities utilized include clinical assessments, neurocognitive assessments, brain imaging, and molecular biology. The Psychiatric Genetics Division has a Neurogenetics Laboratory and has statistical expertise to assist Division researchers and collaborators in any facet of genetic studies involving human populations.