Saturday, May 21, 2011

New Genetics Work Challenges Basic Ideas about Mental Illness

By Jamie Horder from Scientific American

What if schizophrenia or autism are just symptoms of a deeper disorder? A scientist explains the early, exciting findings from copy number variation (CNV) studies.

The search for the genetic roots of psychiatric illnesses and behavioral disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and ADHD has a long history, but until recently, it was one marked by frustration and skepticism. In the past few years, new techniques have begun to reveal strong evidence for the role of specific genes in some cases of these conditions but in a way few people expected.

To understand what makes the new discoveries so novel, it’s necessary to appreciate how our genes can go wrong. The human genetic code can be thought of as an encyclopedia in multiple volumes. Our normal genome contains 46 chromosomes, so that’s 46 volumes. Each chromosome is a long string of the chemical DNA and the information is “written” in the form of a molecular alphabet with just four letters: A, T, C and G.

Read complete article HERE.

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