QIMR Berghofer is playing a key role in the world’s largest genetic investigation of anorexia nervosa.
The Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI) will recruit 8,000 women from Australia, US, Sweden and Denmark, in a bid to identify which genes play a role in risk for the eating disorder.
Professor Nick Martin, Head of QIMR Berghofer’s Genetic Epidemiology group, will lead the data collection team in Australia.
“From decades of research, we know that genes play a role in risk for anorexia nervosa. This global research effort will provide us with the whole picture,” Professor Martin said.
“Finding a genetic basis for a disorder is a big step towards putting it on the map, in medical terms, and offering hope to patients that their disorder is being taken seriously by the scientific community.”
“I should stress that having these genes doesn’t mean you will definitely get anorexia nervosa. But it will mean we’ll be better able to identify a person who might be more vulnerable, and manage their health accordingly.”
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder associated with low body weight, difficulty maintaining a healthy body weight, fear of weight gain, and an extreme focus on weight and shape. It affects all age groups, but is particularly common in adolescent girls, affecting one in every 100.
ANGI is now calling for former and current sufferers of the disorder to take part in a brief survey and donate a blood sample. QIMR Berghofer is hoping for volunteers across Australia.
“If men and women who have the disease now, or have ever had the disease, can take 30 minutes to fill in our Internet survey, and provide a blood sample, they can make a real difference to our understanding of the condition, which will, in turn, help other patients,” Professor Martin said.
Volunteers complete a 30 minute online questionnaire and, if eligible, will provide a blood sample. Sample collection kits can be mailed anywhere in Australia. All sample kit delivery and collection costs are covered by the researchers and all information remains confidential.