Similarities Between Mental Illnesses Have Treatment Implications

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Researchers have discovered new similarities between schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder, according to a study published in Nature Neuroscience.

The three disorders share genetic mutations that work together to govern immunity, brain signaling, and genome function later in life. The researchers believe that one drug could potentially treat all three conditions in the future.

The study included 60,000 people, 33,000 of whom had diagnosed psychiatric disorders. The researchers compared the genomes of the two groups to see if certain pathways have a higher proportion of genetic mutations that influence psychiatric illness. They ranked the pathways in order of their risk contribution to each disease, and were then able to use these rankings to see which pathways contributed the most across multiple disorders.

Their results indicated that many of the genetic variants that increase the risk of mental illness work together in clusters. These clusters have key roles in immunity, brain signaling, and genome function later in life. Therefore, it may be best to study psychiatric disorders based on symptoms instead of diagnoses, especially since so many disorders have overlapping symptoms.

Further research will focus on matching clusters of symptoms to particular pathways in the body. By analyzing these, the researchers hope to provide a basis for developing drugs that can target specific symptoms that occur in multiple disorders.

Depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia have more in common than previously thought.
Depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia have more in common than previously thought.

Schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder have more in common than previously thought. Not only are they linked through shared genes, the genetic mutations associated with them also work together to govern immunity, brain signaling, and genome function later in life, according to a Nature Neuroscience study. The new finding may mean that only one drug will be required to treat all these disorders in the future.

This is the first study to show the genetic overlap between psychiatric disorders leads to meaningful paths for treatment, says Peter Holmans, a biostatistician at King's College London and a co-author the study. Essentially, it translates the genetic information into a roadmap for drug discovery.

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