Two papers that will appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, both receiving advance online release, may help identify gene variants that contribute to the risks of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or Tourette syndrome (TS). Both multi-institutional studies were led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators, and both are the first genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in the largest groups of individuals affected by the conditions.
"Previous studies of these disorders have demonstrated that both TS and OCD are strongly heritable and may have shared genetic risk factors, but identification of specific genes has been a huge challenge," says Jeremiah Scharf, MD, PhD, of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit (PNGU) in the MGH Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology, a co-lead author of both papers and co-chair of the Tourette Syndrome Association International Consortium for Genetics. "These new studies represent major steps towards understanding the underlying genetic architecture of these disorders."
An anxiety disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions that disrupt patients' lives, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is the fourth most common psychiatric illness. Tourette syndrome, a chronic disorder characterized by motor and vocal tics, usually begins in childhood and is often accompanied by conditions like OCD or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Both conditions have a high risk of recurrence in close relatives of affected individuals, but previous studies that compared affected and unaffected individuals were not large enough to identify specific genes or areas of the genome that contribute to risk.
Since many gene variants probably contribute to risk for both conditions, the research teams undertook GWAS investigations, which analyze hundreds of thousands of gene variants called SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) in thousands of individuals with and
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Massachusetts General Hospital