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Christchurch campus joins global study into anorexia nervosa genetics

Christchurch campus

Monday 23 March 2015 10:49am

CDHB Kennedy and Jordan image
Professor Martin Kennedy and Dr Jenny Jordan

University of Otago, Christchurch (UOC), researchers will today launch the New Zealand arm of the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI).

The initiative is the most rigorous global effort to detect genetic variations contributing to this potentially life-threatening illness.

Christchurch-based geneticist Professor Martin Kennedy and psychologist Dr Jenny Jordan are establishing the New Zealand arm. Globally, more than 13,000 people will be recruited to the ANGI study, including more than a thousand New Zealanders.

Professor Kennedy says it was previously thought studying hundreds of people’s genes could identify significant variations related to a psychiatric disease. However it is now believed studying thousands of people is more likely required, because each gene has only a tiny effect on risk.

“It is possible there are hundreds of genes involved in anorexia nervosa, related to controlling certain brain pathways. If we understand the pathways affected, we can start to target them with medication. Anorexia is a complex disease but the ANGI project is a step down a long path that we hope will ultimately lead to better prediction, prevention and treatment.’’

Dr Jenny Jordan works with the Clinical Research Unit (CRU). The unit does mental health research and is jointly run by the Canterbury District Health Board and the University of Otago, Christchurch.

Dr Jordan says genes are likely to play an important role in eating disorders because ‘everyone is exposed to similar social constructs about body image but only some people get eating disorders.’

To be part of the ANGI study, people will have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at any time in their life. To find out more or join the study, visit

For more information, contact:

Professor Martin Kennedy
University of Otago, Christchurch

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