The federal government is funding a monumental project to map 200,000 human genomes in an effort to understand the genetic causes of common diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, epilepsy and autism.

Four institutions were chosen to take part in the four-year, $240 million project announced by the National Institutes of Health.

The institutions — the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University; Baylor College of Medicine and the New York Genome Center — will form the Centers for Common Disease Genomics. Their combined genetic sequencing and analyzing power will map genomes of the large and diverse populations required to understand how one’s genes increase or even protect against the risk of complex diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and mental illness.


Bariatric surgery may boost mood

For some severely obese patients, a new study hints that bariatric surgery might potentially do good for both body and mind. Patients seeking and undergoing such weight-loss procedures were more likely to suffer from depression and binge-eating than the general population — but those with depression often saw their mental health improve after surgery, showed research led by Aaron Dawes, a surgical resident at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The findings, published in JAMA, don’t establish a causal link between bariatric surgery and improved mental health. But they do reveal a relationship that will have to be further studied, scientists said.


Potato study and pregnancy

A study suggests that the more potatoes in a woman’s diet, the more likely she is to develop gestational diabetes, a pregnancy complication.

In a 10-year study, researchers found 854 cases of gestational diabetes in 21,693 pregnancies among women participating in a larger health study. The women completed food questionnaires every four years. Researchers found that compared with those who ate no potatoes, women who ate one serving a week had a 20 percent increased risk, two to four servings a 27 percent increased risk and five or more servings a 50 percent increased risk of developing gestational diabetes. The study is in The BMJ.

The authors suggested the risk may be related to potatoes increasing blood glucose levels. The senior author, Dr. Cuilin Zhang, an epidemiologist with the National Institutes of Health, said “If you can replace potatoes with whole grains or other kinds of vegetables, this can help lower the risk.”

News services