Sunday, June 2, 2013

Major psychiatric disorders share common genetic risk factors

For the first time, scientists have discovered that five major psychiatric disorders—autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia—share several common genetic risk factors.  In particular, variations in two genes involved in the balance of calcium in brain cells are implicated in several of these disorders and could be a target for new treatments. The findings from the largest ever genetic study of psychiatric illness, published Online First in The Lancet, may help to one day reclassify these disorders on the basis of causes rather than descriptive syndromes.
According to Smoller, “Significant progress has been made in understanding the genetic risk factors underlying psychiatric disorders. Our results provide new evidence that may inform a move beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry and towards classification based on underlying causes. These findings are particularly relevant in view of the imminent revision of classifications in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).”*
Writing in a linked Comment, Alessandro Serretti and Chiara Fabbri from the University of Bologna in Italy say, “the present study might contribute to future nosographic [classification] systems, which could be based not only on statistically determined clinical categories, but also on biological pathogenic factors that are pivotal to the identification of suitable treatments.”
They add, “genetics…can contribute to prediction and prevention of psychiatric diseases, along with the identification of molecular targets for new generations of psychotropic drugs.”

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