Researchers from all over the world have come together to figure out the genomics of mental illnesses. Genomics is the study of genes and all things that pertain which include the structure, function, evolution and mapping of genes.
"Specific DNA regions are associated with mental illnesses."
Principal investigator, Patrick F. Sullivan, M.D., a Ray M. Hayworth & Family Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says, this is the largest study ever that found common genetic differences in DNA that will increase a person's risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
There were eleven regions that had a strong link with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which included six regions that were never previously observed.
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are common chronic (lifelong) brain disorders that affect about one percent of the world's population. Schizophrenia is often characterized by symptoms of persistent delusions, hallucinations and cognitive problems while bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is characterized by episodes of severe mood problems that include mania and depression.
The study included over 250 researchers from 20 different countries who analyzed genomes for 50,000 adults that were at least 18 years old.
After studying all of the genes of different participants, there was strong evidence that seven different points in DNA that were associated with schizophrenia. Five of the seven are completely new areas and two were previously implicated, Dr. Sullivan says.
A combined analysis for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder found that three areas of the genome were the same. This shows that these disorders are fundamentally similar even though they have been considered to be separate things, Dr. Sullivan comments.
The observational study is reported by the Psychiatric Genome-Wide Association Study Consortium and was published in the journal Nature Genetics on September 18, 2011. The research was funded by many European, U.S. and Australian funding bodies and National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda Maryland funded the coordination of the consortium.