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Mental illnesses share common DNA roots, study finds

By Maggie Fox, Senior Writer, NBC News

 

The biggest study yet into genetics and mental health has come up with a stunning result: The five most common mental illnesses — autism, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disease, schizophrenia and major depression — all have a common genetic root.

 

The finding, published in the journal Lancet on Wednesday, may eventually lead to a complete rewrite of the medical understanding of the causes of mental illness.
“We have been able to discover specific genetic variants that seem to overlap among disorders that we think of as very clinically different,” Dr. Jordan Smoller of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

 

The study does not explain every case of psychiatric disease, the researchers stress.

 

“We think this is one tiny fraction of the genetic component of these disorders. They involve hundreds and possibly thousands of genes,” Smoller said.

 

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