DNA Brain

DNA variants linked to schizophrenia, bipolar

CARDIFF U. (UK) — Researchers have found new molecular evidence that 11 genetic regions have strong links to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, including six regions not previously observed.

The researchers also found that many of these DNA variations contribute to both diseases.

The findings, reported by the Psychiatric Genome-Wide Association Study Consortium (PGC), represent significant advances in these severe and debilitating disorders. Scientists believe they can start to link the genetic variations to the breakdown of specific brain functions which causes both diseases

The findings, based on genetic data from tens of thousands of patients, have just been published online in two papers in the journal Nature Genetics.

“The genetic variants we have identified are common in the population—everyone carries many of them, but people with the disorders carry more,” says Michael O’Donovan, a psychiatry professor and one of three researchers at Cardiff University involved in the international study.

“The success of this study demonstrates the need for international co-ordination in harnessing data from very large samples to exploit the power of genetics to reveal new insights,” add O’Donovan. “Over the next two years we expect to have data from study samples that are three or four times larger than those we have now, and this can be expected to have the same impact for our research as ever more powerful particle accelerators have had in physics.”

Michael Owen, a psychiatry professor at Cardiff and study co-author, says it may be a few years before scientists are able to see a larger part of the genetic picture. “However, for the first time, we are in a position to make tentative functional links between some of the genes identified.

“One particularly exciting finding is the involvement of a type of molecule, known as a microRNA, which acts as a molecular switch to turn off other genes. This microRNA is also known to regulate aspects of the development and maturation of nerve cells in the brain. The findings suggest disruption of these development processes as likely factors in the origins of mental disorder,” says Owen.

Both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder usually strike in late adolescence or early adulthood. Some of the most prominent symptoms in schizophrenia are persistent delusions, hallucinations, and cognitive problems.

Bipolar disorder (or manic-depressive illness) is characterized by episodes of severe mood problems including mania and depression. Despite the availability of treatments, these illnesses are usually chronic and  often lead to prolonged disability and personal suffering.

Family history is a strong risk factor for both disorders. The new findings are further evidence for the general assumption that dozens of genes, along with environmental factors, contribute to disease risk.

The Psychiatric Genome-Wide Association Study Consortium is the largest consortium ever in psychiatry, involving more than 250 researchers from more than 20 countries.

The effort is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (US). The Cardiff research also was supported by the Wellcome Trust, the European Union, and the National Institute for Social and Healthcare Research (UK).

More news from Cardiff University: www.cardiff.ac.uk/news

chat12 Comments

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12 Comments

  1. Jack William Atkins

    THE CURE FOR ALL MENTAL ILLNESS

    http://www.thecureforallmentalillness.com

    by Jack William Atkins in Australia

  2. Atkin Jack Offwilliam

    Jack, your drivel should not be posted on a real site about mental illness…. you should be the topic of a mental illness study, have you read the stuff you write…really. sorry.

  3. Josh

    @Jack – this is a community for science. It’s pretty tasteless to spam comment threads with self promotion regardless of location (and as an aside, a sign of narcicism, which you don’t seem to have cured in yourself, and which isn’t an awesome testiment to your work). However it is far more tasteless when you come to a science based community and believe you can sucker people with your snake oil – that’s just insulting.

    Anyway, per the article – one thing that isn’t clear in the writeup (though I haven’t read the actual paper) – are the genes correlated with the two illnesses the same or have strong overlap, or did the researchers find different genes correlated with schizophrenia than they did for BP?

  4. Trudie

    Finally a study based on real evidence and very large sample size that will possibly lead to better treatments for these debilitating illnesses. A hope……

  5. Trudie

    Finally a study based on real evidence and very large sample size that will possibly lead to better treatments for these debilitating illnesses. A hope……It is so wonderful to read of new leads and possibilities, when sometimes it seems there simply is no hope.

  6. Ann

    As a sufferer of bipolar illness for over fifty years,(-and it took over twenty years to get a proper diagnosis) it is such a relief to see these kinds of studies being done, which hopefully will lead to more effective diagnosis and treatment. I have gone years in and out of severe depression, having tried more than two dozen different medications all recommended by very good psychiatrists and neurologists.

    Thank you for doing these studies and let us only hope that one day, perhaps not in my time, But one day there will be more effective treatment and diagnosis for my children or grandchildren.

  7. Dr Rob Peers

    Sadly, this gene-centred research is extremely unlikely to lead to new treatments. Family studies strongly suggest that the basic effect [phenotype] produced by “schizophrenia” genes is a mild cognitive disorder called SCHIZOTAXIA–see good descriptions on PubMed, under [faraone a and schizotaxia]. Similar studies of bipolar families indicate that so-called “bipolar” genes are likely not for wild mood swings at all, but instead for BENIGN UNIPOLAR HYPOMANIA–a desirable state of creative mental energy seen in Teddy Roosevelt, Rossini, Beethoven, Handel, Michelangelo etc.. What converts schizotaxia and stable hypomania to clinical psychosis is most commonly a fatty maternal diet, which causes both lifelong anxiety, and some inflammatory brain damage, in ANY affected foetus, with or without scz or bipolar genes. Primary prevention can be achieved by midwives and dietians, supervising all pregnancies, under a national scheme. Existing cases of either psychosis are likely to improve significantly with a low fat diet, plus high Inositol intake [or supplement] to correct the very common co-morbid, non-genetic anxiety disorder, which is a strong driver of psychosis. Those doing all this gene-hunting are unaware of these key findings, which implicate the toxic high-fat Western diet, especially before birth.

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