A New Link Suggested Between Autism, Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder

2 Mar

by Sarah Williams

For many years it has been known that certain psychiatric disorders and symptoms tend to occur more frequently in families than within the general population and the evidence that genetics has a part to play in this is unquestionable.

Genetic studies of autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder show that the risk of developing the disease is related to the amount of genetic information shared with an affected individual.  The likelihood of inheriting these disorders is at least 80%.  This value is equivalent to the value for Type I diabetes and greater than that for breast cancer and Parkinson’s disease.  However, it is important to realise these statistics only indicate the risk and that there are many genetic and environmental influences in these diseases.

Although autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are considered separate diseases, they share some common characteristics. Whole genome studies of thousands of affected people with these conditions have shown genetic overlaps between them.  Autism and schizophrenia overlap of CNVs (copy number variants) and other rare alleles have been found, while common SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) can be seen linking schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

These common genetic variations suggest that these conditions and perhaps other neurodevelopmental disorders may share a common underlying pathogenic mechanism. It has been suggested that many of these implicated gene loci encode proteins, for example the neurexins and neuroligins, which have a critical role in synaptic development and neuronal plasticity. This could therefore indicate a common biological pathway.

This information is providing the basis for new research into the possibility of genetic similarity in these conditions and perhaps others and could perhaps to lead discovery of a common pathway which may be implemented in the targeting of these conditions for future therapeutic models.


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