Common psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression share genetic risk factors related to histone methylation, neuronal function, and immune function, according to new findings by a large collaborative research project from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGP) involving UCLA, King’s College London, Cardiff University in Wales, Harvard, and MIT. Thousands of genetic differences in the human genome act together to increase the risk for psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia. However, until now, it has not been clear how these genetic changes affect biological processes that then go on to alter brain function. In this study, the group analyzed genetic data from more than 60,000 participants, including individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as healthy individuals. The aim was to identify which biological and biochemical pathways caused risk for these disorders. By grouping the genetic data together, the consortium found that genes relating to histone methylation (the strongest association), neuronal, and immune function pathways are are risk factors associated with the development of all the disorders. Such biological pathways are important, they noted, because they are much broader drug targets than are single genes or proteins. “We took the hundreds of genes in the biological pathways identified by our collaborators and modeled them as a gene network,” said Dr. Daniel Geschwind (phot), a UCLA Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, and Genetics, and a study author. This approach allowed the researchers to explore the role of these pathways during brain development and aging. Dr.
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