Five mental disorders share some of the same genes

Five mental disorders share some of the same genes


CUTHBERT: This study examined five different
psychiatric disorders that we’ve always thought of as distinct disorders. Autism spectrum
disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder
and unipolar depression. It examined the genetics in all of these disorders in one BIG sample,
as though they were simply a single illness. And they found genes that were in common across
all of these disorders . In particular, they found disruptions in calcium channels that
are very important parts of neurotransmission. Now that doesn’t match with the idea that
these are distinct. Rather it shows us that there are these common mechanisms. Now, these
may not be involved with absolutely everybody who has these disorders, but clearly they
are present in all of these different groups. What that suggests is that we can start to
move beyond the way we currently think about disorders. Now we diagnose our disorders purely
by description, we describe the symptoms, and assign a diagnosis on that basis. Now
we can start to actually think about diagnosing the disorder by its underlying biology. That
one person has this calcium channel problem. Another person has something else wrong. The importance of this is that now we can
see our way to looking at better ways to treat mental disorders. Because rather than looking
at a treatment that’s specific to schizophrenia, or to autism spectrum, we now can look for
a problem that may be common across many people, like fixing these calcium channel problems,
and that would be a therapy that would help a great many people, depending on their disease
biology and not the particular symptoms that they have.


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