An international study has revealed specific sets of genes associated with the development of ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia.
Researchers analyzed more than 400,000 individuals to determine the genes behind these five mental health disorders.
Researchers from The University of Queensland and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam discovered several sets of genes marked all five disorders.
“Before this analysis, we knew a lot of psychiatric disorders were related to each other due to their hereditary nature,” said UQ psychiatrist Professor Christel Middeldorp.
“We often see multiple family members with mental illness in one family, but not necessarily with the same disorder.
“We investigated if specific sets of genes were involved in the development of multiple disorders, which genes are not only related to say, ADHD, but also to the other four psychiatric disorders.
“These are genes that play a role in the same biological pathway or are active in the same tissue type.
“Genes that are highly expressed in the brain were shown to affect the different disorders, and some genes were related to all the illnesses we studied.
“It shows that there is a common set of genes that increase your risk for all five disorders.”
Study leader Dr. Anke Hammerschlag believes this occurs because of biological pathways shared by the genes in the brain. Research findings appear in the journal Psychological Medicine.
“We found that there are shared biological mechanisms acting across disorders that all point to functions in brain cells,” Hammerschlag said.
“We also found that genes especially active in the brain are important, while genes active in other tissues do not play a role.”
The finding is important as new pharmaceutical drugs could potentially target the shared pathways.
“Our findings are an important first step towards the development of new drugs which may be effective for a wide range of patients, regardless of their exact diagnosis,” she said.
“This knowledge will bring us closer to the development of more effective personalized medicine.”
Source: University of Queensland