Dr. Grace Wu receives ISPN award to explore genetic risk factors for eating disorders in Taiwan

Assistant Professor Ya-Ke “Grace” Wu, PhD, RN, and her team, including Co-Investigators Jui-Yen Huang, MD, MSPH, of Kaohsiung Medical University, and Cynthia Bulik, PhD, of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, have been awarded the ISPN Foundation Joyce Fitzpatrick Psychiatric Nursing Research Award. The project, titled “Exploring Genetic Risk Factors in Eating Disorders: Ensuring Global Inclusion in Taiwan,” is set to begin in March 2023.

Eating disorders (EDs) are serious illnesses that are on the rise worldwide, with approximately 70 million people affected internationally. EDs cost the U.S. economy nearly $65 billion from 2018 to 2019 and resulted in 10,200 deaths per year. Despite affecting individuals from all ancestries, genetic research on EDs is primarily conducted in European ancestry populations. The proposed project aims to fill this gap by exploring the genetic risk factors for eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa (AN), among Asians, and specifically in Taiwan, where the incidence rates of AN and bulimia nervosa (BN) are 1.1 and 6.1 per 100,000 people, respectively.

The proposed project will establish Asia’s first Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) site in Taiwan, with the goal of elucidating deep phenotypes and potential genetic risks for AN in Asians. The study will have significant public health implications in understanding how genetic factors contribute to AN risk in Asians. Wu and her team plan to use the results of this study to seek additional funding to expand the EDGI-Taiwan project to other Asian populations and to develop educational programs for the next generation of psychiatric nurses in Asia.

The award recognizes the outstanding work of the team and highlights the importance of including global perspectives in research. This project is a crucial step towards advancing our understanding of the genetic basis of EDs and will contribute to the development of new treatments and prevention strategies.