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Girgenti Awarded Study Grant by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

June 11, 2021

Matthew J. Girgenti, PhD, Associate Research Scientist in Psychiatry, has been awarded a $90,000 grant by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for his study, “Understanding Suicide Through Postmortem Targeted Brain Multi-omics.”

Please read the abstract to learn more about the study:

Suicide is among the most prevalent causes of death in developed countries and the leading or second leading cause of death among young people. Psychiatric disorders are strongly linked to suicidal behavior. To date there have been several genome-wide association studies (GWASs) on suicide attempt. These studies have examined individuals with comorbid psychiatric disorders (e.g. major depressive disorder (MDD)) and have compared attempters with nonattempters to test for genetic variants that might contribute independently to suicide. These studies have revealed inconsistent genetic findings and infrequent replication across studies, raising the possibility of different molecular changes in suicides with different psychiatric comorbidities.

This proposal seeks to perform a postmortem, multi-omic study of brains from donors with PTSD and MDD who died by suicide. We will focus on targeted brain regions with known differential association with suicide risk as a function of identified intermediate phenotypes (comorbid PTSD and MDD) including the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. We will use state-of-the-art cell type- specific genomic approaches to determine differential mRNA expression and chromatin assembly accessibility in single nuclei isolated across regions. These data will allow an unprecedented understanding of the cell type-specific and psychobiological subtypes of suicide transcriptional and epigenomic profiles, and these findings will be integrated with detailed multi-omic data from other studies and genome wide-association studies of suicide, PTSD, and MDD.

Girgenti’s research is focused on the connection between stress and brain functions. He employs functional genomic approaches to dissect transcriptomic and cell-type specific molecular pathologies in stress-related mental disorders. His interests broadly center on integration of high-throughput biological data, particularly gene expression in large rodent and human-based studies to better understand how changes in genomic signatures associate with brain dysregulation in disease.

He is affiliated with the National Center for PTSD at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, where he also has an appointment as a research biologist.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on June 11, 2021