Research Interest

As a human geneticist, my interest is to understand how people's genetic predisposition affects their health, personality and behavior. Currently, my research focuses on two topics: genetics of schizophrenia and smoking addiction.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by hallucination, delusion, disorganized thoughts and deficit in cognitive functions. Numerous family, twin and adoption studies have provided compelling evidence that genetic factors play a significant etiological role. Schizophrenia is also a developmental disorder. Most patients start to exhibit symptoms during adolescence and early adulthood. Childhood schizophrenia and late onset schizophrenia (mostly women after menopause) are extremely rare. There is evidence that men and women may have different prevalence rate. It is also believed that the immune system may be involved in the disease. It is clear that schizophrenia is polygenic and many genes with relatively small effects are involved. It is noted that environmental factors can have significant influence on the onset and severity of the disease.

Tobacco smoking is addictive and it is another multifactorial behavior that is also significantly influenced by genetic predisposition. Smoking is often associated with other substance use, abuse and dependence. Smoking is also comorbid with many psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and major depression. Of these disorders, smoking is most prevalent in schizophrenia patients. There are hypotheses that smoking either alleviates schizophrenia symptoms or shares some common liabilities with schizophrenia.

Active Projects

Here are the active projects in my lab. The general approach we take is to use genetic association study to identify candidate genes involved in the disease or trait we focus on, and once a promising candidate is identified, we will study the functions of the gene. For association studies, we take either case-control design or quantitative design. Genetic markers, mostly single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are genotyped for a given gene or across the entire genome, depending on the studies, and the genotypes of individuals will then be correlated with phenotypes using statistic methods. For functional studies, we will examine where the gene is expressed and what other genes it works with in cellular compartments and tissues. We will also work with our collaborators to conduct genetic and pharmacologic studies in mouse model to examine how the change of gene expression leads to change of behavior or manifestation of disease.

Comments and Contact

If you are interested in my research or you have comments, please contact me by email.

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This page is last revised on Nov. 20, 2017.