Key Mental Illness Genes Found

A large genome-wide study has identified four single-nucleotide polymorphisms shared between five major psychiatric disorders.

By | March 4, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, CHRISTOPH BOCKPeople suffering from autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia have at least four genomic elements in common, according to research published last Wednesday (February 27) in The Lancet. Researchers combing the DNA of more than 60,000 people around the world determined that the five disorders were linked by single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that occur in at least four different spots on the genome: two in regions of unknown function and two in key calcium channel subunit genes.

“What we identified here is probably just the tip of an iceberg,” Jordan Smoller of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of the paper told The New York Times. “As these studies grow we expect to find additional genes that might overlap.”

Though the four SNPs confer only a small risk of developing the psychiatric disorders, the study is the first to identify genetic elements that link such a wide array of pathologies. Nevertheless, the findings—especially the shared SNPs in genetic components of calcium channels—give hope for an eventual therapy to treat all the disorders. “The calcium channel findings suggest that perhaps—and this is a big if—treatments to affect calcium channel functioning might have effects across a range of disorders,” Smoller told the NYT.


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March 11, 2013

I suspect that the search for the ellusive "genes causing" mental illness wil be about as successful as finding the "genes causing" breast cancer.  Not sure how useful predicting 2 to 3  percent of the variation in who gets the illness is.   Constructs like epigentics and the sheer impact on environment/ lifestyle/ stress/ coping strategies etc will account for the other 97% of the variance of who developes mental illness.

Avatar of: Nikki9


Posts: 1

March 26, 2013

@TheScientist2720770 I disagree, if you have the gene that means you have the potential to develop mental illness while those without the gene do not. Having the gene does not necessarily mean that you will get the disorder but if an environmental factor "turns on" the gene you will develop it. Therefore it would be useful to identify all the genetic factors that cause it so that people will know if they have the potential to develop this disorder and can possibly avoid environmental factors that could turn the gene on.

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