Gene Networks in Autism, ADHD, & Schizophrenia

gene networksRecently, researchers have discovered several gene networks that are involved in autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia, which has raised the question regarding the possibility of all three neurological disorder being treated in a similar way.[1]

“Neurodevelopmental disorders are extremely heterogeneous, both clinically and genetically,” said study leader Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “However, the common biological patters we are finding across disease categories strongly imply that focusing on underlying molecular defects may bring us closer to devising therapies.”1

The study pulls from gene data from CHOP’s genome center, as well as from the Autism Genome Project and the AGRE Consortium.1 The research is a genome-wide association study comparing more than 6,700 patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) to over 12,500 control subjects.1 In fact, it is one of the largest studies of copy number variations (CNVs) in autism ever conducted.1 CNVs are deletions or duplications of DNA sequences.1

Previously, researchers reported that 10 percent or more of ADHD patients have CNVs in genes along the glutamate receptor metabotropic (GRM) pathway, while other studies have found GRM gene defects in schizophrenia, too.1

“If drugs affecting this pathway prove successful in this subset of patients with ADHD, we may then test these drugs in autism patients with similar gene variants,” said Hakonarson.1

In ASDs and other complex neurodevelopmental disorders, common gene variants often have very small individual affects, while very rare gene variants have stronger effects.1

“Even though our study was large, it captures only about 20 percent of genes causing ASDs,” said Hakonarson. “However, strong animal data support an important role for the glutamate receptor pathway in socially impaired behaviors modeling ASDs. Because the GRM pathway seems to be a major driver in three diseases—autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia—there is a compelling rationale for investigating treatment strategies focused on this pathway.”1

[1] Pedersen, T. (2014). Gene Network Involved in Autism, ADHD, Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 13, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/06/08/gene-network-involved-in-autism-adhd-schizophrenia/70953.html

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