Many Psychiatric Disorders Due To Common Genes

Shirley Amy
December 25, 2019

Psychiatric disorders affect more than 25 percent of the population in a given year


Some very interesting news just in: according to recent research conducted by international investigators, the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, and scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH): “many distinct psychiatric diseases share a common genetic structure”.

The study, which was published in the journal, Cell, represents the largest of its kind, thus far. In it, the scientists: “identified more than 100 genetic variants that affect the risk for more than one mental health condition”. A gene is comprised of DNA segments, and: “an alteration in the DNA sequence produces a gene variant, which can increase or decrease the risk for disease”.

Identification of Gene Variants

Now, due to this study: a large percentage of individual gene variants which modify the chance of someone having particular psychiatric disorders, have shown up. – Although it should be noted that our genes frequently generate multiple outcomes, which impact our bodies in various ways.

Harvard Medical School professor, and director of MGH’s Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Jordan W. Smoller, MD, noted that: “Identifying gene variants that influence the risk for more than one psychiatric disorder is an important step toward improving the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions. Understanding how specific genetic variations may contribute to a broad spectrum of illnesses can tell us something about the degree to which these disorders may have a shared biology.

Research Details

In order to be able to pinpoint these multi-purpose gene variants, a method known as the genome-wide association, was utilized by the scientists to examine: “genetic data from 494,162 healthy control subjects and 232,964 people diagnosed with at least one of eight common psychiatric disorders. The analysis identified 109 gene variants that affect the risk for more than one psychiatric disorder”.

Groups of Genetically Related Conditions

As particular disorders share a large number of variants, the scientists were able to separate them into three groups of genetically-linked states, namely: disorders characterized by compulsive behaviors (anorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive disorder); mood and psychotic disorders (bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia); and early-onset neurodevelopmental disorders (autism spectrum disorder, and ADHD)”. Further, the scientists determined  that the genes linked to multiple disorders, indicated increased expression, starting at the second trimester of pregnancy. Moreover, the former seem to play a key function in the development of the brain.

The study’s lead author, Harvard Medical School and MGH’s Center for Genomic Medicine’s, computational geneticist, Phil H. Lee, PhD, remarked:  “Knowing which gene variants increase the odds for developing multiple psychiatric disorders provides new clues about the biological pathways that contribute to mental illness. And learning how disorders are related at a biological level, may inform how we classify and diagnose mental health conditions”. And while further research is warranted, this excellent study is surely a big step in the right direction.

Shirley Amy

Shirley Amy is a Holistic Health Specialist and professional writer who's published 4 books. Her  interests include optimum wellness, mental health, fitness, and positive lifestyle change. She holds University and College qualifications in the fields of Health Science, Nutrition, Mental Health, Fitness, Holistic Therapy and Aromatherapy.

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