20070309 schizophrenia petscan
Illustration of Schizophrenia's effect on the brain: While patients performed a working memory task, the less the prefrontal cortex (red) activated, the more dopamine increased in the striatum (green). - 


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: $100 million. It's the biggest award ever given for psychiatric disease research. The recipient is the Broad Institute, the 4-year-old offshoot of Harvard and MIT. From the Health Desk at WGBH, Helen Palmer has more.

HELEN PALMER: This award comes from the Stanley Medical Research Institute, a family philanthropy.

With $10 million a year for the next 10 years, the new center can analyze thousands of genetic samples from people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

PAMELA SKLAR: For both disorders, we know virtually nothing about what causes them.

That's Pamela Sklar, director of genetics for the new institute. She says both disorders have a strong genetic component. Finding the exact genes involved is vital.

Another task, says Sklar, is gathering DNA samples.

SKLAR: Currently, there don't exist in the world enough to really convincingly do all the kinds of experiments that we need to do.

They'll test the samples with thousands of chemicals to see how the disease genes are affected. But, says Sklar, it's impossible to say how soon any therapies might emerge.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.