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STRADL Depression Research Day

Dec 2018: A report on the Wellcome Trust ‘Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally’ (STRADL) annual meeting, which was held in Edinburgh in October 2018.

The University of Edinburgh hosts the Wellcome Trust ‘Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally’ (STRADL) Strategic Award, which supports yearly meetings to discuss progress in depression and resilience research. The meeting was held at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on the 8th of October this year. Over 80 attendees and speakers from Europe, the United States, and Australia attended the event.

Advances in genetics

Major advances in the genetic research of depression were reported at the meeting and continued at the Gillian Birrell Memorial lecture in the evening. These included presentations by Prof Naomi Wray of the University of Queensland and by Dr David Howard and Prof Andrew McIntosh of the University of Edinburgh.

This work, which has been supported by Wellcome Trust funding at the University of Edinburgh, has now led to the discovery of 102 genetic risk loci for depression in more than 2 million people from more than 20 countries.

Speakers at the STRADL annual meeting 2018
Left to right: Prof Naomi Wray, Prof Patrick Sullivan, Prof Jonathan Roiser and Prof Sophia Frangou, the STRADL Scientific Advisory Team

Other highlights included:

  • Prof Patrick Sullivan from University of North Carolina and The Karolinska Institute, who provided a path for depression genetics research based on progress in other traits such as schizophrenia
  • Dr Riccardo Marioni from IGMM and Dr Toni Clarke from CCBS in the University of Edinburgh, who presented work on the population epigenetics of depression, showing that DNA methylation acts as an archive of risk factors for depression and its treatment.

Epigenetic studies

Population epigenetic studies in Generation Scotland are another output of the Wellcome Trust STRADL support, and we hope the start of 2019 will see the largest single sample of DNA methylation data available from a single source, and the start of new research ideas and projects utilising this important sample.

Naomi Wray presenting at the STRADL annual meeting 2018
Prof Naomi Wray from University of Queensland giving a talk entitled “The ups and downs of research into the genetics of depression”
Prof Andrew McIntosh presenting at the STRADL annual meeting 2018
Prof Andrew McIntosh from University of Edinburgh presenting the research of genome-wide meta-analysis of depression

Further talks included updates on imaging studies of depression by Dr Heather Whalley from CCBS and studies of neuroticism by Dr Michelle Luciano and Dr Dave Hill from CCACE.

Data science

Some of the most interesting talks on the day were from investigators presenting new areas of activity and how STRADL might develop in the future. These included a talk from Dr Matthew Iveson, who presented new data science activities that seek to use NHS record linkage, analytics, and research study enhancements to study depression in greater depth and in larger numbers of people.

Public engagement

Dr Iona Beange, Dr Stella Chan and Dr Lizzy Kirkham rounded off the day by presenting work showing the high value our research group places on public trust and engagement, as well as how engagement can lead to better research questions, public support and social license for the growing field of health data research.

Related links

Prof Andrew McIntosh's profile

@EdinUniMentalH  (Mental health at the University of Edinburgh) on Twitter

Division of Psychiatry