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.