Gene could trigger mental disorders

18 August 2014

A new study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, has indicated that there is a common disease mechanism in major mental illnesses, which integrates genetic risk, aberrant neurodevelopment, and synapse dysfunction. 

The findings, published in the journal Nature, demonstrate how factors such as genetic risk, abnormal brain development and synapse dysfunction can "corrupt brain circuitry at the cellular level in complex psychiatric disorders", according to Professor Hongjun Song from the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

The team used a disease-in-a-dish technology called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) during the study, which involves using the patient's skin cells and manipulating them to revert to stem cells. They were then analysed to differentiate into neurons and observed as they developed and interacted.

It found that mutant neurons demonstrated deficient cellular machinery for communicating with other neurons in synapses, which the researchers then linked to the errant expression of genes known to be involved in brain development. 

The findings suggest that people with major mental illnesses could present a common disease mechanism, which integrates genetic risk, aberrant neurodevelopment, and synapse dysfunction. It is hoped that this could potentially lead to the development of new treatments to correct synaptic deficits.

Posted by Jeanette Royston​

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