Major research shows that certain common genes are linked to the majority of psychiatric disorders

A large-scale study has shown that the development of certain psychiatric illnesses can originate from the same gene. A discovery that could lead to the development of new treatments.

Psychiatric disorders affect more than 25% of the population each year. The numerous studies carried out in this field have made it possible to link variants (or mutations) of certain genes in the appearance of these disorders. But recently, scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), in association with an international consortium of scientists specializing in genomic analyzes for psychiatric disorders, have shown that some of these variants can cause more than one disorder. psychiatric.

In order to identify these genes, they gathered genomic data from around 500,000 healthy people, as well as from 230,000 others suffering from at least one of the eight most common psychiatric disorders. Result: 109 gene variants would increase the risk of developing more than one psychiatric illness.

They also found that the expression of the latter is greatly increased during the second trimester of pregnancy, a crucial phase for the development of the fetal brain.

The researchers then separated into three groups the different psychiatric pathologies, according to the gene variants that they have in common: mood and psychotic disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression), disorders responsible for compulsive behaviors (disorders obsessive compulsive, or anorexia nervosa), and developmental disorders of the nervous system (autism, attention deficit, or Tourette syndrome).

"  Understanding how specific genetic variations can contribute to a broad spectrum of diseases could tell us something about the degree to which these disorders can have a shared biology ," says lead study author Jordan Smoller.

Although this type of large-scale research has never been done in the past, the large number of variants identified was predictable for scientists. Indeed, most genes are pleiotropic, that is, they can have many roles in the body. It was therefore highly likely that a significant number of variants whose role is the proper development and functioning of the nervous system could be involved in more than one disease.

"Understanding how disorders are linked biologically can shed light on how we classify and diagnose mental health problems, " says bioinformatician Phil H. Lee of MGH. He also adds that this discovery could help characterize the biological pathways contributing to the development of these pathologies.

The researchers are confident that their study will allow the development of clinical trials in the future in order to develop new diagnoses and treatments that can be used for more than one disorder.

"  To the extent that these genes can have far-reaching effects, they could be potential targets for the development of new treatments that could benefit multiple conditions, " says Smoller.


Genomic Relationships, Novel Loci, and Pleiotropic Mechanisms across Eight Psychiatric Disorders

Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium 1

Jordan W. Smoller


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