Biotechnology/Life Sciences lecture features Johns Hopkins researcher

The April 18 Biotechnology/Life Sciences Seminar Series will be led by Robert Yolken of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He will discuss the search for infectious agents as causes of serious psychiatric disorders at 4 p.m. in the Beadle Center, room E103.

The talk and a 3:30 p.m. reception are free and open to the public.

Yolken is director of the Stanley Neurovirology Laboratory at Johns Hopkins. He is replacing the previously announced speaker, Leslie Hicks of the Donaldy Danforth Plant Science Center.

Serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are major causes of mortality and serious morbidity. These disorders are devastating to both the individuals who have the disorders, their families, and society at large. Family and twin studies point to a role for genetics in disease susceptibility. However, sophisticated genomic studies have failed to identify genes of large risk.

In his research, Yolken is pursuing the hypothesis that infectious agents can interact with host susceptibility genes to lead to brain abnormalities and psychiatric disorders in some individuals. He will discuss his group's work with a proven pathogen, the apicomplex parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Yolken will also describe efforts to use sequencing technologies to identify new agents, including large DNA viruses. The implications for disease prevention and treatment will be described.

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