Striking Similarities Between Autism, Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia
Through examining brain tissue, researchers said that they found similarities between certain mental illnesses, including autism and schizophrenia, and similar patterns of gene expression were found in people with autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
This study is going to be a milestone in the field of mental disorders. According to NPR, while this research is not going to be immediately helpful in diagnosing patients who may have psychiatric disorders because it was carried out on the brains of deceased patients, it could someday be useful in diagnosis and treatment of diseases like autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Gene expression refers to the process in which cells convert genetic instructions into proteins. "These findings provide a pathological molecular structure of these disorders, which a major step forward," said the study's lead author, Daniel Geschwind.
“The important challenge is to understand how these changes came about," added Geschwind, director of the Autism Research and Treatment Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We found that these molecular changes in the brain are connected to underlying genetic causes, but we do not understand the mechanisms by which Those genetic factors would lead to these changes,” Geschwind said in a university press release.
His team analyzed RNA from 700 tissue samples from the brains of deceased people who had autism, schizophrenia, bipolar depression, major depression, or an alcohol abuse disorder.
They compared the samples with brain samples from people without any mental illness. Although there was much coincidence in the patterns of gene expression associated with conditions such as autism and schizophrenia, people with major depression had genetic expression patterns not observed in other types of mental illness, the researchers said.
Now that researchers have some understanding of the causes, the next step is to understand the underlying mechanisms 'to develop the ability to change those results,' Geschwind added. The study appears in the February 8 issue of the journal Science.