WEDNESDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia may all share common genetic risk factors, a new study says.
In this largest study of its kind, researchers spotted gene variations governing brain function that may raise the risk for these often devastating mental woes. In the future, these gene variants might become key targets for prevention or treatment, the scientists said.
"This study, for the first time, shows that there are specific genetic variants that influence a range of childhood and adult-onset psychiatric disorders that we think of as clinically different," said lead researcher Dr. Jordan Smoller, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
"We also found that there was significant overlap in the genetic components of several disorders, especially schizophrenia with bipolar disorder and depression, and to a lesser extent autism with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder," he said.
The researchers don't yet understand exactly how these variants are involved in the disorders, he noted. "This is the first clue that specific genes and pathways may cause a broader susceptibility to a number of disorders. Now the important work will be to figure out how this actually happens," said Smoller, who is also associate vice chair of the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Dr. Alessandro Serretti, from the Psychiatry Institute at the University of Bologna in Italy, wrote an accompanying journal editorial on the study. He believes that "we are now able to understand what are the pathways to [these] psychiatric disorders."
There are potential clinical applications, both in the classification of disorders, predicting who's most at risk, and perhaps new and better drug therapies, Serretti said. However, there's no immedia
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