Dr. Ying Lin, a member of the faculty at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering, was awarded a $435,017 grant to continue research on identifying underlying genetic contributors to some forms of psychiatric illness. The award is part of a larger $2.4 million project.
The research will be completed over four years by Lin, an Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering and the director of the Smart Health & Intelligent Engineering Systems (SHINES) Lab. The grant, “Integrative approaches to identification and interpretation of genes underlying psychiatric disorders,” is in collaboration with the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (LIBD), an independent, not-for-profit medical research institute in Baltimore working to develop new treatments for brain disorders. LIBD is the leading institution for the $2.4 million project.
“I have been collaborating with Dr. Shizhong Han, Lead Investigator at LIBD and Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, for over three years,” Lin said. “We wrote two papers together before applying for this grant.”
Lin's research is part of a more considerable effort to identify and map the interaction between genes and mental illness.
“There is strong evidence for a genetic contribution to many psychiatric illnesses,” Lin wrote in an abstract for the grant. “In recent years, with the advancement of high throughput genomic technologies and the availability of large samples, remarkable success has been made in risk gene discovery for major psychiatric disorders.”
However, according to Lin, because of the human genome’s complexity, it is hard to discover specific genes or genetic variations that can put a person at higher risk for disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder.
“The identification and characterization of risk genes and noncoding regulatory variants will help improve our understanding of the biological mechanisms that underlie psychiatric illnesses, moving us closer to designing effective prevention and treatment for these disorders,” she wrote in an abstract for the grant.
The SHINES Lab focuses on data analytics and quality engineering to improve healthcare results. Lin will be working with Ph.D. student, Shiva Afshar, on the project. Openings are available for more students to join the project.