United Kingdom Research and Innovation, Medical Research Council and King's College London

New world-class centre to reveal biological clues behind brain disorders


New world-class centre to reveal biological clues behind brain disorders

The MRC has awarded £3 million to King’s College London for a world-class centre that will aim to transform our understanding of disease mechanisms underlying brain disorders, and translate this knowledge into clinical advances that change people’s lives.

The MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders will benefit from the unique convergence of renowned leaders from multiple disciplines, including neonatology, neurology, psychiatry, neuroscience, genetics, stem cells and imaging technology.

Brain disorders account for one of the greatest burdens of disease in the developed world but the currently available therapies do not work effectively for many patients, and there is a lack of treatments for many conditions. In addition, current treatments are based on symptoms and are not disease modifying, and only around 50 per cent of people respond to them.

Drawing on expertise from eight different departments at King’s, the Centre will focus on three large groups of disorders that are thought to be caused by abnormal brain development - epilepsy, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia.

For the first time in decades, technological advances in genomics are beginning to shed light on the genetic and molecular bases of the most common and severe neurodevelopmental disorders. It is also increasingly clear that environmental factors are critical in the formation of brain circuits and, as such, contribute to the emergence of these disorders.

The identification of genes that make people more susceptible to autism and schizophrenia, along with the environmental factors that modify their impact on brain development, now offer the opportunity to elucidate the shared and distinct biological underpinnings of these disorders - and to translate these advances into rational therapies and individualised medicine.

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