New research finds common ground between mental illnesses

New research has found that common mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression share genetic risk factors related to immune function and DNA regulation.

The study, led by NCMH principal investigator Professor Peter Holmans and Dr Gerome Breen at King’s College London also involved researchers from UCLA and The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

Thousands of genetic differences across the human genome act together to increase the risk for psychiatric conditions. However, until now, it has not been clear how these genetic changes affect different biological processes that then go on to alter brain function.

Researchers analysed genetic data from over 60,000 people, including individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, autism spectrum disorders and ADHD, as well as individuals without mental health conditions. Their aim was to identify the biological and biochemical pathways that influence risk for these disorders.

“The use of genome-wide genetic data allows us to identify disease-relevant pathways without making prior biological assumptions” said Professor Holmans. “This is important as it allows us to discover novel mechanisms of risk that might not otherwise be studied.”

The results of the study have been published online in Nature Neuroscience.

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