One of the biggest challenges in psychiatric genetics has been to replicate findings across large studies. Scientists at King's College London, Institute of Psychiatry, and multiple collaborators have now performed one of the largest ever genetic replication studies of bipolar affective disorder, with 28,000 subjects recruited from 36 different research centers. Their findings provide compelling evidence that the chromosome 3p21.1 locus contains a common genetic risk for bipolar disorder, the PBRM1 gene. The locus at 3p21.1 has also been previously associated with depression and schizophrenia. Using a separate dataset of over 34,000 subjects, the scientists did not confirm association of this same variant with schizophrenia. Thus, they replicated the association of the marker with bipolar disorder, but not with schizophrenia. This is an interesting finding, in that it distinguishes the heritable risk for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It contrasts with the majority of studies that have found that schizophrenia risk genes also contribute to the risk for bipolar disorder. "This study adds to the recent rapid progress in identifying genes for mental illness. The last few years have seen the identification of about two dozen genetic loci for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia," commented first author Dr. Evangelos Vassos. "About half of these are shared between these two disorders, indicating they share some, but not all, genetic causes." Due to the conflicting results, it is clear that more work is needed to determine the role this locus plays in psychosis, but the evidence seems solid that it is associated with bipolar disorder.
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