För er som är verksamma inom forskning och behandling av ätstörningar behöver Cindy (Cynthia) Bulik ingen närmare presentation. Men för er som inte känner till henne är Cindy en av världens absolut främsta forskare inom ätstörningsområdet. Hon är Distinguished Professor vid institutionen för psykiatri på University of North Carolina i Chapel Hill där hon också är professor i näringslära vid Gill School of Global Public Health samt grundare av Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders vid UNC. Hon är även Co-Director för UNC Center for Psychiatric Genomics och är bl. a initiativtagare till den omfattande ANGI-studien som pågår.
2014 blev Cindy rekryterad som professor till institutionen för medicinsk epidemiologi och biostatistik (MEB) vid Karolinska Institutet med uppdraget att under tio år bygga upp ett centrum som verkligen flyttar fram förståelsen för ätstörningar samt att utbilda nästa generation forskare inom området. Den unika positionen på KI finansierades av svenska Vetenskapsrådet och hon spenderar nu sin tid både i Stockholm och i North Carolina.
Nu har hon tillsammans med Elisbeth Welch och Jessica Pege startat CEDI – Center for Eating Disorders Innovation som vi självklart vill veta mer om. Vi mejlade med Cindy som befann sig på resande fot på väg till flygplatsen:
Hi Cynthia! Tell us about CEDI, what is the purpose of the center?
-Hi! Here is the official language of what we are:
”At the Centre for Eating Disorders Innovation (CEDI) we are dedicated to applying novel and emerging methodologies and technologies to elucidate causal mechanisms underlying eating disorders. Our ultimate goal is to rigorously apply findings from genetic, biological, and environmental risk investigations to refine and personalize detection, prevention, and treatment of eating disorders.”
-In simpler terms, our goal is to bring together top researchers from many fields to rapidly advance the science of eating disorders. Our field has been either stuck or moving very slowly for far too long. We hope to change that with broad collaborations, new ideas, and novel approaches. Ultimately our goal is to eliminate mortality from eating disorders and dramatically improve prevention, detection, and treatment.
What projects are going on right now?
-Here are a few. There are quite a few more, so I don’t want to overwhelm you!
- Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI)
-We have completed collection of clinical information and blood samples from 13,000(!) Individuals with anorexia nervosa across Sweden, Denmark, the United States, Australia and New Zealand along with 9,000 healthy individuals who have never had eating disorders. We are now entering the exciting genotyping phase from which we will get the “read out” of all of the participants’ entire genomes. We will then compare the genomes of the cases with those of controls to identify where significant differences lie. This is part of a broader consortium—The Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. I am the co-chair of the Eating Disorders Workgroup of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium.
- Binge Eating Genetics INitiative (BEGIN)
-BEGIN will be the first and largest genetic investigation of bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Taking place in the US and Sweden, we will collect DNA and stool samples from individuals with both of these conditions and healthy control individuals in order to identify genes that contribute to these disorders, but also to understand how the human genome and the bacteria in our guts interact to lead to and maintain these illnesses.
- Comprehensive Risk Evaluation for Anorexia nervosa in Twins (CREAT)
-CREAT is a study of identical twins who are discordant for anorexia nervosa. This means that one twin has anorexia and the other does not. The beauty of this study is that identical twins share all of their genetic material, so discovering differences between them focuses us on where to look for causes for this debilitating illness. We will be inviting twins to spend two days with us at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska universitetssjukhuset for a comprehensive evaluation. This unique study will help us understand both the biology and the psychology of anorexia nervosa.
Making science and research accessible to the public is something that I understand that you are striving for. Why is that important and how do you do that?
-This has been important to me throughout my career. I have approached it through writing books for the public (see cynthiabulik.com), via social media (Twitter: @cbulik, @uncceed), blogs (https://uncexchanges.org/) and public lectures and public engagement. Typically, it takes so long for patients and families to see any benefit from science or to experience the hope that science can give them. I have always believed that it is my responsibility to translate science for the people who need to hear about it now, not 10 years from now. So my teams both in the US and in Sweden understand that public engagement is part of the science we do.
What plans do you have for CEDI in the future?
-We are launching heavily into studies of the gut microbiome (intestinal bacteria) to help us understand some of the perplexing aspects of eating disorders including metabolic and emotional factors. Our bugs are vital to our existence and they affect us in more ways than we know. So we would like to understand more how they operate in eating disorders and whether treating people with eating disorders on the microbial level may improve treatment outcome.
We will also be combining our genomic data with the rich population registers in both Sweden and Denmark to help us identify BOTH genetic and environmental risk factors for eating disorders.
We also want CEDI to be a fun place to work, where many exciting ideas are generated, and where we can continue with and build our collaborations both across Sweden and around the world.