Prof Golam Khandaker, PhD, FRCPsych
University of Bristol, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit


What Genetics Can Tell Us About the Role of Inflammation in Neuropsychiatric Disorders:
Evidence from Mendelian Randomization Studies

Golam is Professor of Psychiatry, Medical Research Council (MRC, UK) Investigator, and Wellcome Trust Fellow at the University of Bristol Medical School, and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist in the UK National Health Service (NHS). He leads the Immunopsychiatry Programme at the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit in Bristol University. His research focuses on identifying and validating novel immunological mechanisms and potential treatment targets for depression and schizophrenia using epidemiological cohort studies, genetic analysis, and early phase clinical trials. He is also interested in the role of immune system in cognition, neurodevelopment, and psychiatric and physical multimorbidity. The key impetus for this work is to move immunotherapies closer to psychiatric clinic through innovative translational research. 

His notable work includes cohort and genetic studies providing evidence for a potentially causal role of the inflammatory cytokine interleukin 6 in depression and schizophrenia. These findings have led to two ongoing proof-of-concept RCTs of anti-cytokine monoclonal antibody treatment for depression and schizophrenia patients.

Golam’s presentation will discuss recent genetic evidence, particularly that from Mendelian randomization (MR) studies, suggesting a causal role of inflammatory cytokines in the aetiology of psychiatric disorders. MR is a novel causal inference method that uses genetic variants as anchors to test whether the association between an exposure and an outcome is likely to be causal, or best explained by residual confounding or reverse causality. MR is now widely used in many branches of medicine and as part of large-scale GWAS to examine causality. Golam’s examples will illustrate that MR can be a powerful tool for strengthening causal inference and identifying new treatment targets in psychiatric research.

For further information follow @golam_khandaker and visit bristol.ac.uk/integrative-epidemiology/research/immunopsychiatry/

February 2023

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