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Macrostudy shows genetic significance in main psychiatric disorders

More than 300 researchers from around the world, including the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute, University of Barcelona and National Genome Analysis Center, have analyzed the relationships among these diseases.

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By Biocat

The International Multicenter persistent ADHD Genetics CollaboraTion (IMpACT) consortium, made up of more than 300 researchers and 250 institutions, has carried out the most significant genetic study to date with 75,000 subjects analyzing the five most frequent psychiatric pathologies: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and autism. The results of the work, published this month in Nature Genetics, show that all of these diseases share genetic factors.

The highest associated genetic correlation was found between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which share a variation in 15% of the cases studied; followed by bipolar disorder and depression, 11%, schizophrenia and depression, 8%; depression and ADHD, 7%, and schizophrenia and autism, 3%.

The last correlation surprised the research team from the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), as it was not expected based on their clinical experience: “These results are compelling but not conclusive. ADHD and autism share the least heritability but they are also the two disorders with the smallest sample. This must have had an impact on the statistics and, therefore, the results are possibly underrepresented,” explains Dr. Josep Antoni Ramos-Quiroga renowned expert in ADHD research and head of the VHIR Laboratory of Psychiatric Genetics and the Psychiatric Unit at the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital.

Nevertheless, Ramos-Quiroga goes on to say that this study "puts psychiatry in the same league as oncology in terms of genetics research."

The VHIR coordinates the Spanish group participating in the IMpACT consortium, which includes other scientists from Catalonia like Dr. Bru Cormand, of the University of Barcelona Department of Genetics and the Center for Biomedical Network Research on Rare Diseases (Ciberer), and Dr. Mònica Bayés, of the National Genome Analysis Center (CNAG). In this study, Cormand and Bayés have contributed genetic data from patients with ADHD and control subjects, collected for another specific study into this disorder funded by La Marató de TV3 in 2008.

Psychiatric disorders lead to one third of all disabilities around the world and have a significant personal and social impact for patients, families and society as a whole. Although these new findings are still far from having a tangible benefit in terms of diagnostics, prognostics or treatment, it is important to understand how these diseases work as this could allow scientists to establish the risk of suffering from another disorder in patients already diagnosed with one of them and, with this information, apply preventative measures.

More information is available on the VHIR website.

Scientists Miquel Casas, Marta Ribasés, J. Antoni Ramos-Quiroga, Cristina Sánchez-Mora and Bru Cormand - Photo: © VHIR.