Monday, March 11, 2013

Genetic Similarities in Psychiatric Illnesses


Recently, one of the largest psychiatric studies to date was conducted worldwide. Its mission was clear: to identify if common DNA sequences exist among people suffering from different mental illnesses. A variety of over 60,000 affected people from 19 countries were evaluated. Findings revealed that common, debilitating illnesses such as Major Depression Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Schizophrenia, and Autism all share similar genetic abnormalities. Normally, these types of illnesses have been diagnoses in reference to patients' symptoms, rather than strictly biological factors and "genetic aberrations." The similar defect linking the 5 aforementioned illnesses together pertained to faulty brain signaling system components. However, this finding is in no way simple. The complexity surrounding the ways in which the human brain functions, normally and abnormally, consists of endless gene variations.
What we identified here is probably just the tip of an iceberg,” said Dr. Jordan Smoller, lead author of the paper and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “As these studies grow we expect to find additional genes that might overlap.”

Nevertheless, this study has brought up important questions regarding patterns of inheritance and risk factors associated with certain mental illnesses. The four DNA regions that were found to show similarities all coded for calcium channels that help with neuro-signaling  in the brain. This breakthrough is tremendous because now research can be done to see if certain pharmacology that alter calcium channel function can be used as effective treatment against a wide range of psychological disorders. If future trials yield positive results, this original study can finally provide sufferers the relief they have so desired.

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1 comment:

  1. It would be interesting to know if these genetic sequences are there from birth or environmental mutations occur. There is a theory that schizophrenic DNA sequences comes from a viral infection during embryonic development