The SHARED ROOTS project was established following the award, to Prof Soraya Seedat (Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University), 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 is on-going for the targeted 600 patients with NPDs, half of whom will meet criteria for metabolic syndrome (MetS).
NPDs, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease (PD), are underpinned by complex and dynamic gene-environment interactions that intervene across the lifespan. Clinical diagnosis on the basis of current clinical criteria remains largely unsatisfactory as these NPDs are complicated by marked phenotypic heterogeneity and the concurrence of other medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and metabolic syndrome (MetS). MetS, an important predictor of cardiovascular events, is highly comorbid in patients with NPDs yet the molecular pathophysiology linking these conditions is poorly understood. A better understanding of 'nature' and 'nurture' factors influencing the convergence of NPD and MetS is needed to design targeted interventions aimed at reducing cardiovascular and cardiometabolic morbidity and mortality.