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From mental illness was a common genetic portrait

The activity of genes in the cerebral cortex was very similar at the same time in autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.


New information about how genes work in different neuropsychiatric diseases may help to create more effective therapies. (Photo: fabioberti.it / Depositphotos)

The neurons of a section of the cortex of the hemispheres. (Photo: Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience NTNU / Flickr.com) ‹

In psycho-neurological diseases of the brain are not working as they should work normal, this means that there are some anomalies at the level of neurons and molecules.

In turn, molecular and cellular anomalies often arise from genes: for example, a gene can be in a very active form or it may not work at all, and because in the neuron synapses can be very strong and durable or is very weak, which in turn affects the perception, emotions and other cognitive functions .

Researchers have long been looking for genetic features associated with a particular mental illness, and in fact has already become clear that the diseases these genetic characteristics largely overlap. However, information about the different variants of genes, mutations in them often enough, and you still know exactly how genes manifest themselves.

As we know, genetic information is first read from DNA to RNA: the genes are synthesized RNA molecules (transcription stage), and they have then synthesized protein molecules (translation step). If the gene is active, RNA is synthesized on it a lot, if the gene is not very active, and the RNA copies will not be enough. (Of course, protein synthesis RNA is also regulated, and protein molecules into one RNA molecule can be more or less, but in many cases the activity of genes can quite accurately estimate the first stage – the synthesis of RNA.)

Researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles, compared the activity of genes, 700 samples of cortex taken from people who in life suffered from autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and alcoholism (in addition to these seven, there were still about three hundred samples from healthy people).

The activity of genes was assessed by RNA and, as stated in the article Science have the above diseases from a molecular point of view, suddenly appeared a lot in common. And schizophrenia with bipolar disorder genes work in much the same way, and have autism with schizophrenia have common features. In General, changes in the genetic activity in autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia concerned of the genes that control the excitation of neurons, the ability of cells to generate and conduct through an electrochemical impulse which, perhaps, would expect.

The authors also managed to notice that some clusters of genes whose activity is increased in depression, bipolar disorder and autism, control inflammation. Accordingly, their activity is related to the auxiliary cells of the nervous tissue – astrocytes and microglial cells. And maybe the symptoms of diseases can at least to some extent mitigated if we act on these helper cells and reduce the inflammation in the brain.

However, because each disease has its own characteristics, otherwise they would not distinguish in the clinic. Here is the paradox: if the total “genetic features” is quite different clinical manifestations; that is, the same genetic abnormality may eventually turn anyway.

Thus, curiously, the alcoholism got in the way: the activity of genes in alcoholics was different than the activity of genes of those who suffered from depression, autism, etc. the Result was more surprising due to the fact that earlier studies with identical twins talked about the fact that alcoholism, for example, depression, genetics are similar (or, speaking more correctly, certain genetic risk factors).

Of course, the question arises, whether there changes in genetic activity just under the influence of treatment? That is all because there are drugs that affect the genes? To see if this is right or wrong, we need to explore the mind of a man who was healthy, but got the pills from depression, schizophrenia and so on. Such people, even if they are, find it extremely difficult, so in experiment we used the brains of primates that were fed with drugs for experimental purposes. It turned out that no detected overall changes in gene activity occur still due to disease and not due to the treatment (although treatment also affects the activity of genes).

Again, what about the genetic similarity of different neuropsychiatric disorders has been discussed, but until now, these similarities were only seen when comparing DNA sequences. And now it appeared that genes in diseases such really work the same way.

On the one hand, with the new data we may be able to create new, more successful methods of treatment that will be effective against several diseases.

On the other hand, the question remains, why are these diseases still so different. Some experts believe that you need to go deeper and analyze the activity of genes is not generally in the cortex, and in particular groups of neurons and even individual neurons – it is possible that at the level of individual cell groups, there are some important molecular differences, which differences are obtained clinical.

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