AUS researchers seeking 3,500+ volunteers for world’s largest eating disorders genetics investigation

QIMR Berghofer

AUS researchers seeking 3,500+ volunteers for world’s largest eating disorders genetics investigation

Study to pinpoint genes influencing risk of developing eating disorders

Researchers are seeking ACT volunteers with first-hand experience of eating disorders to enrol in the local arm of the world’s largest ever genetic investigation into the complex, devastating illnesses.

The ground-breaking Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) aims to identify hundreds of genes that influence a person’s risk of developing anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, to improve treatment, and ultimately, save lives.

According to an EDGI investigator article just published in MJA Insight,1 EDGI will further the significant advances made in a recent, international collaborative study – Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI) – in order to revolutionise future research into the causes, treatment and prevention of eating disorders.

“Identifying the genes that predispose individuals to the development of an eating disorder is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. The more pieces we have on the table, the clearer the biological picture of the underlying causes of the disorder, and the better the chance of developing new and improved, personalised interventions and treatments,” said article co-author, EDGI Principal Investigator, Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Professor Cynthia Bulik, USA.

“Genetically, our preliminary ANGI research, which compared 17,000 participants with more than 55,000 controls from 17 countries, revealed both psychiatric and metabolic origins to anorexia nervosa, explaining why people living with the disorder struggle to gain weight, despite their best efforts. The study also identified eight genetic variants significantly associated with anorexia nervosa.2

“Our new study, EDGI, offers us a unique opportunity to further investigate the complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to eating disorders, in order to improve treatments, and save lives,” Prof Bulik said.

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that for some, can lead to severe and permanent physical complications, and even death.3 While various studies have explored one’s genetic predisposition to developing an eating disorder, only a handful of the responsible genes have been identified to date, leaving many more to be found.

Australian Lead Investigator, Geneticist and Head of the Genetic Epidemiology Research Group, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Professor Nick Martin, Brisbane, is seeking more than 3,500 Australians to volunteer for EDGI.

“With approximately 17,096 people in ACT thought to be living with an eating disorder, we are looking for any Australians, aged 13 and over, with first-hand experience of an eating disorder, to volunteer for this important genetics study.”4,5

Volunteers need to be aged 13 years or over* and have currently, or at any point in their lives experienced, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder.

/Public Release.