5 Common Disorders Show a Genetic Linkage
Though previously thought to have distinct causes, a recent study links these five very serious mental health disorders to one another through certain genetic research.
In this study, researchers investigated genetic data from 19 countries since 2007, tested more than 33,000 people with psychiatric illnesses and a little over 27,000 people without any mental illness. The purpose was to test whether or not there was a clear connection between these five mental illnesses. And the data proved that a link does, in fact, exists.
Individuals with the same genetic mutations (a genetic risk factor that makes the individual susceptible to mental illness) may have two different illnesses.
For example, the study focused on two identical twins with the same gene mutation. One of the twins was later diagnosed with schizophrenia while the other with bipolar disorder. This, of course, is just the beginning of research on the topic, but it is valuable information to know that such illnesses may share the same genetic component. This is not entirely shocking: Years ago autism used to be referred to as “childhood schizophrenia”.
It is also important to consider the environmental factors that play a serious role in the appearance of mental illness.
Calcium Channel Findings
The study conclusively linked four DNA regions with a small risk of psychiatric disorders. Two of these four regions monitor calcium channels – pathways used when neurons send signals to the brain.
The advantage of pinning down these two regions associated with calcium channels is that some experts are now testing the effect of certain highly available drugs (used to treat common health issues such as high blood pressure) to try and block these calcium channels, which they believe could potentially help treat certain disorders.
While more research needs to be done, Dr. Roy Perlis of Massachusetts General Hospital has already tested these drugs on 10 individuals afflicted with bipolar disorder and plans to expand the experiment to a randomized clinical trial.
Perlis discourages individuals from using calcium blockers for any mental health-related issues until research is conclusive and it is found safe by healthcare professionals.
No Cure for Mental Illness?
While further research needs to be done, linking these five disorders proves to be a very positive turn for the better.
For those familiar with the age old response “there’s no cure for mental illness”, maybe we can hold out hope?
So many people live under the pain and shame of mental illness in the U.S. today, and while individuals and spokespersons are working on breaking this unfortunate stigma, maybe we can work on finding a cure…or even just a way to make these afflictions easier to live with.
Be sure to tune in for Discovery Fit & Health’s Pysch Week this May 19-23@ 8-11pm!
By: Jen Wolfe
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