A recent study at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) revealed that autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder share similar patterns of gene expressions in the brain. This means that these disorders have similar physical attributes at the molecular level. However, there are also distinct differences between each of these psychiatric disorders.
Daniel Geschwind, director and professor at the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment, led the research. He explains that finding a pathological and molecular signature of these diseases can pave the way for new and better treatment approaches. The research was aimed at understanding how these changes happen at the molecular level.
Genetic variations can lead to the development of these psychiatric disorders, but they are not the sole cause. Every cell in our body contains the same RNA and DNA molecules which play a significant role in genetic expressions. These genetic expressions occur by “reading” the instructions contained within the genetic material.
Geschwind and his team expect that observing RNA molecules in the brain would help in obtaining a molecular profile of these disorders. The researchers analyzed RNA samples from brain tissues of 700 deceased people who had autism, schizophrenia, bipolar dsorder, alcohol use disorder or a severe depressive disorder. These tissue samples were compared to samples from the brains of people without psychiatric disorders. The research revealed similar changes in molecular expressions in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, alcohol use disorder and major depressive disorders.
The researchers concluded that these molecular expression changes in the brain are connected to underlying genetic factors. The researchers emphasized the need of more research for understand the mechanisms through which these genetic factors lead to development of different psychiatric diseases. An understanding into the mechanisms would help in discovering novel treatment approaches to change their debilitating psychiatric outcomes.
The research was recently published in the Science journal.