A recent study has identified 70 previously unknown genes that contribute to people developing serious mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
As part of the study, a team of Australian researchers identified how the activity or expression of those 70 new genes, and 261 other genes that were already linked to mental illnesses, increased the disease risk.
“In this study, we are homing in on the biological causes of these mental illnesses,” said Eske Derks, a lead researcher of the study published in the journal Nature Genetics. Led by the head of QIMR Berghofer’s Translational Neurogenomics Group in collaboration with scientists from Vanderbilt University and the University of Amsterdam, the study examined data from scores of people collected from four separate studies into schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and ADHD and compared it to information from hundreds of thousands of mentally healthy controls.
“For schizophrenia, for example, we looked at the genetic data from about 40,000 patients and compared it to data from about 65,000 control samples from people without the disorder,” Derks asserted.”Through this process, we identified 275 genes whose activity levels contribute to the risk of schizophrenia, 13 genes whose expression is associated with bipolar disorder, 31 genes involved in depression and 12 for ADHD. We can now conduct follow up tests of those particular genes,” she added.
The study also looked at the DNA and gene activity, or expression, in the brain, colon, adrenal gland and whole blood tissue samples from 700 deceased donors who had not been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders during their lives, to gain an understanding of where in the body the gene activity was taking place.