School of Medicine

Podcast: International effort aims to help those at risk for serious psychiatric illness

Washington University psychiatry researchers (left to right) Andrey Anokhin, PhD; Michael Harms, PhD; and Daniel Mamah, MD; visit their colleague Daniel Ndetei, MD, of the University of Nairobi at a new screening facility in Kenya where the group is working to identify markers for risk of serious psychiatric illness, such as schizophrenia. (Photo: Daniel Mamah, MD)

In this episode, we report on a major international study involving psychiatry researchers from the School of Medicine who are working to identify causes and effects of the early stages of schizophrenia in young people — an illness characterized by significant changes in thoughts, feelings and behavior that may include a loss of contact with reality. The goal is to improve early diagnosis and treatment to potentially prevent the most devastating effects of the disorder.

The study’s principal investigator is Daniel Mamah, MD, a professor of psychiatry. He has a clinic in St. Louis, where he works with young people to identify biomarkers in the blood and the brain that may help predict risk of debilitating psychiatric illness. He also studies potential drug targets for treating such conditions.

In addition, Mamah and his colleagues have expanded their efforts to East Africa. Working with collaborators in Kenya, the researchers are launching a site in Africa to study young people at risk for schizophrenia in hopes of learning more about what causes the illness, as well as how to potentially prevent it. Mamah previously has collaborated with researchers at the Africa Mental Health Research and Training Foundation, and now the scientists are working to identify and compare risk factors for schizophrenia in patients from North America and from Africa.

Read more and listen.