Department of Psychiatry

Research - Research Units

The Shared Roots of Neuropsychiatric Disorders and Cardiovascular Disease Project

Study Overview

This project was established following the award, to Prof Soraya Seedat, of a competitive, prestigious Flagship Project Grant from the SA Medical Research Council (MRC) at the end of 2013. The broad goal of the shared roots study is to interrogate genomic, neural, cellular and environmental signatures that are common to neuropsychiatric disorders (NPDs) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and that contribute to co-morbidity, symptom severity, and treatment outcomes. This is being done using an innovative, multi-omics, systems-biology approach that combines genomic, transcriptomic, epigenetics and complementary phenotypic and multimodal neuroimaging data, to disentangle mechanistic pathways that lead to the development of comorbidity of these disorders. Recruitment for the study completed mid-2017 and data preparation and further analyses is ongoing.

​The specific aims are to:

1.        Identify global cellular pathways or a 'genetic signature' that increases risk for developing NPDs and comorbid metabolic syndrome (MetS)
2.        Investigate differences in gene expression between NPD individuals with/out the comorbid MetS
3.        Assess differences in DNA methylation between NPD individuals with/out comorbid MetS
4.        Evaluate structural and functional neuro-circuitry differences in NPD individuals with/out comorbid MetS
5.        Generate a computational/statistical model to develop a more holistic understanding of these complex phenotypes


Project staff

Prof Soraya Seedat (MBChB, MMed (Psych), PhD) 
Head of Study
Tel: +27 21 938 9374
Email: sseedat@sun.ac.za

Dr Leigh van den Heuvel (MBChB; FCPsych (SA); MMed (Psych) 
Study Manager
Tel: 27 21 938 9228
E-mail: luellaz@gmail.com
Dr Stefan du Plessis (MBChB) 
Imaging Clinician 
Tel: 27 21 938 9228
E-mail: stefandup@sun.ac.za​​

Dr Sharain Suliman (MA Psych Res; PhD Psychiatry) 
Postdoctoral Fellow
Tel: +27 21 938 9020
Email: sharain@sun.ac.za
Retha Smit (Dip Gen Nursing and Midwifery) 
Study Coordinator (Stikland Study Unit) 
Email: amsmit@sun.ac.za
Chanellé Buckle (MA Psych Res)
Research Assistant
Tel: +27 21 938 9771
Email: cbuckle@sun.ac.za

Erine Bröcker (MA Clinical Psychology) 
Clinical Psychologist Researcher 
Tel: +27 21 938 9587
Email: erineb@sun.ac.za
Ms Freda Scheffer (MA Research Psychology)
Research Assistant
Tel: +27 21 910 3605
Email: fredas@sun.ac.za