Key Mental Illness Genes Found

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

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Mar 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...

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