Research News

Psychiatric disorders share common genetic risk factors

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 06 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1470

Researchers have discovered a set of genetic risk factors shared between five major psychiatric disorders—schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The four risk loci emerged from genome-wide analyses of 33 332 affected adults and children and 27 888 unaffected controls, all with European ancestry. Two of the loci were in genes that encode the subunits of calcium channels in the brain, and the authors suspect that these channels are part of a shared biological pathway ending in neuropsychiatric diseases with distinct clinical features.

Calcium channel signalling might be a productive place to start looking for new drug treatments, says a linked editorial (doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60223-8). We already know that calcium channel antagonists have antidepressant-like effects in mice, and that lithium targets a receptor that regulates the release of calcium from intracellular stores.

The traditional diagnostic classification of mental illness is currently under review. The authors hope their findings will help inform a more meaningful system of classification based on underlying causes, not just phenotypical features. The adult mental illnesses—bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia—looked most closely linked in their study.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1470