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Dr. Sabine P. Cordes

Research Institute
Mount Sinai Hospital
Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Health Complex
600 University Avenue
Toronto Ontario
M5G 1X5

Tel.: 416-586-4800 ext.8891

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Dr. Sabine P. Cordes


Feared and largely misunderstood, mental illness exacts a painful personal and economic cost. The cost of mental illnesses in Canada for the health care system was at least $7.9 billion in 1998, with an additional $6.3 billion spent on uninsured mental health services and time off work. In 1999, 3.8 per cent of all admissions in general hospitals — 1.5 million hospital days — were due to anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, major depression, personality disorders, eating disorders and suicidal behavior.

Clinical and family studies have indicated that there is a strong genetic component to susceptibility to psychiatric disorders. Dr. Sabine Cordes is working to identify the genes involved with the goal of improving diagnosis, treatment and quality of life for those affected by psychiatric disorders.
Dr. Cordes' research focus is the serotonergic system.

Serotonergic neurons produce the neurotransmitter serotonin and are of particular relevance to human disorders of mood and mind. These neurons modulate many behaviours including appetite, anxiety and aggression in humans and animals. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac, increase the perceived levels of serotonin in the brain and are still among the most effective anti-depressants available. Variations in genes required for the development and function of the serotonergic system show particularly strong associations with psychiatric conditions. Dr. Cordes and her team are interested in identifying new genes required for the development and maintenance of a healthy serotonergic system, with the hope that ultimately these will help improve diagnoses and treatments for patients. 

Dr. Cordes is collaborating with scientists at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health to test what roles any newly identified genes may play in psychiatric conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism and phobic disorders.

Recently, Dr. Cordes and her team of researchers at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute have established a connection between a gene named Gumby and blood vessel growth, published in Nature. The new discovery provides hope that, in addition to other treatments for cancer, the Gumby gene can become an attractive target for drug therapies against certain cancers by potentially restricting blood flow to tumours that are inoperable, such as in the brain.

At a Glance

Dr. Cordes studies the genes involved with psychiatric disorders

Research focus is on serotonin — which plays a key role in modulating behaviours such as anxiety, appetite and aggression

Working on the development of simple blood tests that would accurately diagnose psychiatric disorders

Major Research Activities

Dr. Cordes' laboratory is using molecular techniques and analysis of pre-existing and newly generated mouse mutations to understand early neural development, especially that of the vertebrate hindbrain segmentation and serotonergic neuron. To investigate neurotonal specification, Dr. Cordes' lab is focused on identifying new genes required for the development and maintenance of a healthy serotonergic system, with the hope that ultimately these will help improve diagnoses and treatments for patients.