Genetic and psychosocial predictors of biological aging: clinical significance for stress-related mental disorders (ZEPSOM-Bio)

The distribution of ZEPSOM sample in the South-West of Montreal, Canada

Stress-related mental health problems are a leading cause of disability in most developed nations, including Canada. Exposure to adversity early in life, increases the risk of later stress-related mental health problems. However, not all children exposed to early adversity will develop a mental illness. A sensitive biological marker of vulnerability for stress-related mental illness would help identify and treat those at the greatest risk for negative mental health outcomes associated with early adversity. The ‘epigenetic clock’ is a biological marker of aging that can be assessed in a variety of different, accessible human tissues. Epigenetic age acceleration, calculated as the difference between an individual’s age in years and predicted age based on the epigenetic clock, is associated with exposure to chronic lifetime stress and predicts a range of health outcomes. We plan to carry out the most comprehensive analysis to date of epigenetic age acceleration and its relationship with the onset and severity of stress-related mental illness. 

We will do so in the large CIHR-funded Zone d’Épidémiologie Psychiatrique du Sud-Ouest de Montréal (ZEPSOM) study. The ZEPSOM is situated in the southwest of Montreal and has more than 258,000 residents of the neighborhoods of Dorval / Lachine, LaSalle, Pointe-St-Charles / St. Henri and Verdun. Of these, a representative sample of 2400 residents was randomly selected -600 per neighborhood - at the first cycle of the ZEPSOM study and a second sample was recruited at 3rd cycle. The ZEPSOM-bio participants are active participant of ZEPSOM study who agreed to participate in this new study, in the continuity of ZEPSOM.

This cohort has collected data on a range of characteristics potentially associated with mental illness across a eight-year period.

We propose to build a resource of biological samples within the ZEPSOM cohort to estimate epigenetic age acceleration and its relationship to genetic and environmental predictors of stress-related mental illness. Findings from the ZEPSOM sample will be explored in a number of large cohorts made available through a network of national and international collaborations. This research program will also benefit from a multidisciplinary team including both new and senior investigators.

The biological group of CIHR Team in Social and Psychiatric Epidemiology successfully sought a grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) to build the resource of biological samples within the ZEPSOM cohort, and to estimate epigenetic age acceleration and its relationship to genetic and environmental predictors of stress-related mental illness. 

Findings from the ZEPSOM-bio sample will be explored in a number of large cohorts made available through a network of national and international collaborations. This research program will also benefit from a multidisciplinary team including both new and senior investigators.

Exploited by 9 researchers and several students, ZEPSOM-Bio represents a rich pool of new knowledge for the benefit of people with mental illness. Since 2016, it develops educational opportunities and knowledge transfer mechanisms for the benefit of decision makers and knowledge's users of Quebec health care system.

Knowledge’s translation and sharing between the ZEPSOM-Bio and the health care sector are supported by a Committee of researchers and decision makers from organizations providing mental health services within the catchment area: Douglas Hospital Research Center, Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux, Centres Intégrés universitaires de Santé et Services Sociaux de l’Ouest-de-l’ile-de Montréal. Also, Knowledge’s translation and sharing between the ZEPSOM-Bio and experts in the field mental health area are linked with McGill university, University of British Columbia, Max-planck intitute of psychiatry.

Information

Sophie Alarie, MSc
Research Coordinator
Phone: 514 761-6131, # 3449
zepsombio.coordo@douglas.mcgill.ca