Mental Illnesses Exhibit Similar DNA

By Hilda Scott , Feb 28, 2013 06:37 PM EST

Scientists found that five major illnesses share common DNA links. Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia all share a genetic link.

The genome of 33,332 patients and 27,888 controls that were of European roots were examined. Among all five psychiatric disorders, four DNA sequences were found to have similar links in specific chromosome regions.

The findings in the study of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium were published on Thursday (Feb. 28) in The Lancet journal.

"This analysis provides the first genome-wide evidence that individual and aggregate molecular genetic risk factors are shared between five childhood-onset or adult-onset psychiatric disorders that are treated as distinct categories in clinical practice," said one of the lead authors, Jordan Smoller from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The most common genetic variation or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was also found in two genes that control calcium flow within the brain. "Polygenic risk scores showed cross-disorder associations, notably between adult-onset disorders," said the findings.  

"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," said Smoller.

Although this discovery is important to the science of genetic studies, researchers still seek to learn more. The assessment can possibly help with the prediction and prevention of certain psychiatric diseases. It may also aid in the development of next-generation psychiatric drug treatments. 

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