Scientific Lectures | Jonathan Flint

Currently, Professor Flint is a member of the Department of Psychiatry of the University of California Los Angeles, having worked previously at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, in Oxford. He has made numerous and very important scientific contributions, including the identification of the first replicated genetic loci contributing for susceptibility to major depression. For that, Professor Jonathan worked with Chinese colleagues in order to access a vast cohort of case-controls with major recurring depression, in which all subjects were entirely phenotyped. His analysis led to the identification of two replicated loci related to major depression and to the discovery that, in these cases, subjects had a bigger quantity of mitochondrial DNA than controls.

A better diagnosing ability and the development of new therapies for this high-morbidity disease: these are the goals of Professor Flint’s research. Given the impact of a disorder like depression in the quality of a patient’s life, this research is and will certainly continue to be key in a much needed change of paradigm regarding the subject.

PSYCHIATRY GENETICS

It is a well known fact that genetic variables constitute the basis of many different diseases. Psychiatric disorders are no exception: they all have some sort of genetic contribution. But, albeit being illnesses of common presentation, the treatments we have at our disposal are generally not very efficient. Given that, a better understanding of the genetics associated can lead to a better diagnosis and to the development of new therapies. It is to meet this premise that Professor Flint’s work is carried, investigating the subjacent genetics to common psychiatric disorders linked to stress, such as major depression and anxiety.

Nine to sixteen percent: this is the global prevalence of depression, that also varies according to gender, the numbers estimating that one in five women will suffer from a major depressive episode in their lifetime. These are the odds that Professor Flint’s contributions race against; as a psychiatric geneticist, he works with both human and rodent genomics towards the development and application of new methods to uncover key genes and their function.

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