Psychiatric disorders

Mounting evidence shows genetic overlap between multiple psychiatric disorders. However, the biological underpinnings of share risk for psychiatric disorders not yet fully uncover. The identification of underlying biological mechanisms is crucial for the progress in the treatment of these disorders.

A group of international doctors has uncovered the genes that contribute to the development of ADHD; autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia. A collaborative research project carried out by The University of Queensland and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam analyzed more than 400,000 individuals; to determine the genes behind these five psychiatric disorders.

Lot of psychiatric disorders

UQ psychiatrist Professor Christel Middeldorp said several sets of genes marked all five disorders. Before this analysis, they knew a lot of psychiatric disorders relate to each other due to their hereditary nature. They often see multiple family members with mental illness in one family, but not necessarily with the same disorder.

However, they applied gene-set analysis including 7372 gene sets; and 53 tissue-type specific gene-expression profiles to identify sets of genes that involve in the etiology of multiple psychiatric disorders. They investigated if specific sets of genes 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 express in the brain shown to affect the different disorders; and some genes 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.”Professor Christel Middeldorp, UQ psychiatrist The study’s lead author Dr Anke Hammerschlag said it was due to the biological pathways shared by the genes in the brain.

Functions in brain cells

“They found that are shared biological mechanisms acting across disorders; that all point to functions in brain cells,” Dr Hammerschlag said. “The synapse plays a vital role as this is the connection point between brain cells; where the cells communicate with each other. “They also found that genes especially active in the brain are important; while genes active in other tissues do not play a role.”

New pharmaceutical drugs could potentially target these shared pathways. ” 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.”