Chair, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University
Attempted and completed suicides are major problems in our society, making the understanding, prevention, and treatment of suicidal behaviors a top priority. Individuals who suffer from major depression are especially at risk.
Gustavo Turecki, MD, PhD, conducts studies to better understand the characteristics of these individuals, focusing on issues such as early development, personality traits and neurobiological factors, with particular attention to how the environment interacts with the genome to increase risk.
Typically, his studies address questions such as: "Why do some people who become depressed commit suicide while others with the same illness do not?"
At the molecular level, Gustavo Turecki investigates the role of epigenetic risk factors, namely how life experience affects gene function and increases risk for suicidal behavior. A landmark study published in 2009 with his collaborators Michael Meaney and Moshe Szyf (McGowan et al., 2009, Nature Neuroscience) showed that early-life adversity can cause epigenetic changes in stress response genes. In June 2014, he and his team discovered that a tiny molecule, miR-1202, is a potential biomarker for depression and help detect individuals who are likely to respond to antidepressant treatment.
Gustavo Turecki is the director of the McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS), a centre comprising 11 independent investigators and carrying out multidisciplinary studies on suicide, including the study of biological, behavioral, clinical and psychosocial risk factors for suicide. The MGSS works with the Douglas – Bell Canada Brain Bank to provide tissue for postmortem studies on suicide and mental illnesses.
Gustavo Turecki is also the Head of the Depressive Disorders Program that offers superspecialized services to children and adults who are suffering from major depression and/or severe forms of other depressive disorders. It provides cutting-edge therapies to depressed patients and contributes to our understanding of risk factors and treatment of major depression by integrating research projects into clinical practice.
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