Bipolar disorder and autism connected by same genetic roots: Study

Bipolar disorder and autism connected by same genetic roots: Study

Most people believe that mental disorders are uncommon and rarely occur under normal conditions. But the truth is that mental disorders are common and widespread and the early warning symptoms are a “red flag” which can be disruptive and frightening. Most often, the exact cause of a mental disease is not known, but studies have shown that many a times the condition may be triggered by biological, psychological or environmental factors.

A research published in the Jama Psychiatry in May 2016 found out the common genetic roots for mental illnesses, like autism and bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a common psychiatric illness and affects nearly 5.7 million Americans (2.6 percent) aged 18 and older every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Despite a number of therapies devised to help people get rid of this illness, the success rate is quite low. Various studies have shown that people suffering from bipolar disorder have common genetic susceptibility to conditions like depression or anxiety, but its link with schizophrenia and autism has opened a new area of research.

Many rare gene variants show link with bipolar disorder

As part of the study, the researchers analyzed a number of families with a history of bipolar disorder and compared their genomes to details from previous studies. Led by researchers of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the study is the first of its kind in suggesting a genetic intersection between bipolar disorder and autism.

Researcher James Potash, M.D., UI professor and DEO of psychiatry, along with his colleagues, devised a strategy by combining a case-control approach with family-based exome sequencing to identify rare variants that led to bipolar disorder. This approach is used to identify gene variants that move from one generation to other, passing on a disease from parents to children. Thus, if a genetic variant is found more prominently in the group of individuals suffering from bipolar, in comparison to those without the condition, the gene variation might be linked to higher risk for developing the disease.

The researchers identified 84 rare variants that were linked with bipolar disorder and were also found to damage the proteins encoded by the genes. They then sought to find out if these rare variants were responsible for causing bipolar disorder in vulnerable individuals. For this, they analyzed case-control data sets comprising 3,541 people suffering from bipolar and 4,774 control patients and found 19 genes likely to be linked with the disease. On investigating further, they found these 19 genes to be implicated in other conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.

“It turned out that the schizophrenia and the autism genes were all more represented among our 82 genes than you would expect by chance. And when we looked at our whittled down group of 19 genes, the autism genes continued to be unexpectedly prominent among them,” Potash said.

In the long run, the findings can be instrumental in propelling research towards finding new treatments for millions of individuals suffering from bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

Seeking help

Most of the mental disorders are curable, provided there is timely intervention and help is sought from the right quarters. Treatment centers in the U.S. can play a major role by initiating programs that can help patients fight a mental health condition. The mental health facilities in California, touted as the best in the country, and other such rehabs can lead the patients on the path to recovery.

Sovereign Mental Health Services too plays an active role in creating awareness related to mental health problems and their treatments. Not only do we employ holistic treatment procedures, but also feel happy to share our knowledge about the subject. Chat online with one of our experts today, or call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529 if you have a query regarding any mental disorder treatment.

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