Dr. Consuelo Walss-Bass
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
The central focus of the Walss-Bass laboratory is to identify the genetic causes of severe psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Despite tremendous advances in genetics, molecular/cellular biology, and psychopharmacology, the fundamental biological nature of psychiatric disorders remains largely elusive. To address this problem, our laboratory utilizes a model of collaboration and dialogue between investigators working in the laboratory and investigators working directly with patients, to correlate behavioral outcomes with genetic underpinnings and biological mechanisms, in order to understand the biology behind psychiatric disorders.
The Walss-Bass lab utilizes genomic and proteomic techniques, in both humans and animal models, to investigate how changes in DNA sequence cause changes in protein function, which in turn causes changes in brain function and behavior, and how this may lead to development of mental disorders. One key area of investigation focuses on understanding the role that the immune system plays in development of mental illnesses. We know that stress (either social stress or biological stress due to infections or illness) plays an important role in activating the immune system, and this in turn can have serious consequences in individuals who have a genetic predisposition to develop psychiatric disorders.
Some questions we are trying to answer:
What makes certain individuals vulnerable to developing different psychiatric disorders? How do changes in DNA sequence contribute to changes in biological functions that affect the outcome of mental illnesses?
How can mental illness be treated if we know which genes are not working?
Why do some mentally ill patients respond well to medications and others do not?
What role do genes involved in regulation of immune system response play in development of psychiatric disorders?