Psychiatric Illnesses May Involve Changes in Only Two Genes



A new study shows that changes in only two genes may account for most psychiatric illnesses.


 

PSYCHIATRIC ILLNESSES MAY INVOLVE CHANGES IN ONLY TWO GENES

As most regular readers of Weekly Health Update know, I rarely discuss psychiatric research studies here, as most behavioral studies are based upon lower level research methodologies, and many of these studies also take inadequate safeguards, in my view, to eliminate inherent biases. However, every now and then, a psychiatric study comes along that catches my attention, and merits further discussion.

Currently, psychiatric diagnoses are based upon clinical symptoms that are organized into diagnostic groups contained in the “bible” of Psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “DSM.” Because specific psychiatric diagnoses are based almost entirely on the subjective observation of signs and symptoms of mental illness, rather than objective test results, there is enormous potential for misdiagnosis. Moreover, many psychiatric diagnoses are associated with overlapping clusters of symptoms, which further increases the likelihood of misdiagnosis (and inappropriate treatment).

A new research study, which appears in the current issue of the journal The Lancet, strongly suggests that several common mental health disorders long thought to be unrelated to each other may, in fact, share a common biological basis, at least in some patients. The striking findings of this novel genetic study may dramatically change the way that psychiatrists diagnose and manage patients with psychiatric illnesses.

In this landmark study, 33,332 patients with psychiatric illnesses and 27,888 healthy control subjects underwent sequencing of their entire complement of DNA (“genome”), looking for genetic variations known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). (These common variations in the individual “letters” of our genetic code are responsible for many of the differences that exist among us, including hair color, eye color, and other variations, or traits, that can be readily observed.) The researchers then used very complex genetic analysis tools to search for SNPs that appeared to be linked, specifically, to the diagnosis of 5 different psychiatric illnesses in this large population of research subjects.

The results of this landmark study go a long way towards explaining the inaccuracies and inconsistencies commonly associated with the clinical diagnosis of psychiatric illnesses based upon DSM diagnostic criteria. Another very important result of this study is that it provides a potential explanation for the actual genetic and biological basis for at least some cases of common psychiatric illnesses.

Based upon the enormous amount of genetic information collected in this study, SNPs at four specific genetic sites were found to be strongly associated with the following 5 common psychiatric illnesses: autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder (depression), and schizophrenia. What was especially fascinating was the finding that genetic variations at these four sites involved just two genes, both of which are associated with calcium channels that act like microscopic gates that allow calcium to move into or out of cells.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this study’s findings. For perhaps the first time, there is now genetic and biological data linking the 5 most common major psychiatric illnesses to specific locations in just two genes, which argues against the current clinical view that each of these illnesses are completely unrelated to each other. Indeed, the finding that variations in only two genes may account for these 5 common psychiatric illnesses is hugely significant, as is the finding that these two genes, which are involved in the construction of calcium channels, may play a fundamental role in the development of these seemingly unrelated illnesses.

The findings of this pivotal study will, hopefully, help psychiatrists to move away from the current subjective, and often arbitrary, methods of clinically diagnosing and treating psychiatric illnesses, and move towards making diagnoses based upon objective gene-based (“molecular”) and biological findings. Moreover, reaching a clearer understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying these common psychiatric illnesses may also lead to innovative new treatment options for patients with mental health illnesses.

 

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Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, more than 2.6 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 


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Mercury Exposure In The Womb May Cause ADHD





 

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children may result from maternal exposure to mercury during pregnancy.


 

 

 

MERCURY EXPOSURE IN THE WOMB MAY CAUSE ADHD

Over the past 10 years, there has been a significant increase in the number of children diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  While the reasons behind this rising number of ADHD diagnoses continue to be debated, there is emerging clinical research data suggesting that maternal exposure to specific environmental toxins during pregnancy may significantly increase the incidence of ADHD among the children of these exposed mothers.

Previous studies have linked prenatal (“before birth”) exposure to lead, tobacco and mercury with a higher incidence of ADHD, but these studies have suffered from a significant limitation, in that they have relied upon surrogate measures of exposure to these toxins rather than direct, quantitative measures of exposure.  Now, a newly published clinical study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine has overcome the limitations of previous studies, and strongly suggests that prenatal exposure to mercury increases the risk of ADHD.

There are multiple sources of potential mercury exposure in the environment around us.  Indeed, more than half of all of the mercury introduced into the environment comes from manmade sources, including coal-fired power plants, steel plants, cement plants, mining operations, waste processing plants, battery manufacturing plants, and fluorescent bulb manufacturing plants, among other industrial sources.  (Almost half of the mercury in the environment actually comes from naturally-occurring processes including, of all things, volcanic eruptions.)  Once released into the environment, mercury then becomes concentrated, or “bio-amplified,” within the plants and animals that we eat, as well as in the water that we drink and the air that we breathe.  Once ingested, mercury is a known toxin, with adverse effects on the nervous system (including the brain), lungs, kidneys, and other vital organs.  As is the case with many environmental toxins, mercury is especially toxic to the unborn fetus, infants, and small children.

In this innovative new study, two groups of children were evaluated.  In the first group (421 children), hair samples collected from the mothers of these children at around the time of their birth were analyzed for mercury content.  In the second group (515 children), maternal hair samples were not available for testing, but maternal fish consumption (the most common source of mercury exposure) during pregnancy was evaluated, and this information was used to assess the impact of maternal fish intake on ADHD incidence in this second group of children.

The findings of this study were quite surprising.

The most important finding of this study was that increasing levels of mercury in the hair of mothers were significantly associated with a greater number of ADHD-related behaviors among their children.  In particular, impulsive and hyperactive behaviors were 70 percent more common among the children of mothers with hair mercury levels at or above 1 microgram per gram of hair, and attention-deficit (“inattentiveness”) behaviors were 40 percent more common among these same children. Another interesting observation was that the association between maternal hair mercury levels and ADHD symptoms was identified primarily in boys, and was not commonly seen in girls.

Given that the single greatest source of mercury ingestion for most of us is fish consumption, one would expect that higher levels of maternal fish consumption would be associated with an increased risk of ADHD if, indeed, prenatal mercury exposure can lead to ADHD.  However, this study actually found the opposite association between maternal fish intake during pregnancy and the risk of ADHD.  In this study, maternal fish consumption of more than 2 servings for week during pregnancy was actually associated with a lower incidence of ADHD among the children of these mothers, including a 60 percent lower incidence of impulsive and hyperactive behaviors.

Mercury is a known nerve poison (neurotoxin), and there is data suggesting that the prefrontal cortex of the developing fetal brain is especially sensitive to the effects of even low levels of mercury and other environmental neurotoxins.  As the prefrontal cortex (the “executive center” of the brain) is the area of the brain that exerts the greatest control on voluntary behavior, it is entirely reasonable to think that damage to this part of the brain could result in the inattentive and hyperactive behaviors that are the hallmarks of ADHD.

Based upon this study’s findings, it appears that maternal exposure to even relatively low levels of mercury (based upon maternal hair mercury content) during pregnancy may significantly increase the risk of ADHD-related behaviors in affected children.  At the same time, the finding of the more subjective half of this study, which assessed maternal fish intake during pregnancy as a risk factor for ADHD-related behaviors, is rather counterintuitive, as fish consumption is thought to be the greatest source of mercury exposure for most humans.  If, as this study suggests, increased maternal fish consumption during pregnancy is actually protective against ADHD-related behaviors, then environmental sources of mercury exposure other than fish must be involved in mercury-associated ADHD symptoms.

In my view, the findings of this study are very important, and, as an accompanying editorial notes, short of intentionally exposing children to mercury contamination for the sake of research, the hair analysis utilized in this study is as close as we are going to get to a “perfect” study of prenatal mercury exposure as a risk factor for ADHD.

Fortunately, there is an increasing awareness by public health experts regarding the potentially adverse health effects of environmental mercury.  However, the findings of this study suggest that more must still be done to reduce mercury levels in the food that we eat, the water that we drink, and the air that we breathe.

 

Give the gift of health during this Holiday Season.  My bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, is available in both print and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Help a loved one to begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

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“Talking” Therapy May Help Depression When Antidepressant Medications Fail

New Egg-Free Flu Vaccine

Graphic Cigarette Labels in Australia

Predicting Childhood Obesity at Birth

Inexpensive Power Foods

 


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1



At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, 2,017,594 pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.



 



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