A call to turn mental health genetic discoveries into better treatments for patients

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Key challenges for the field of psychiatric genetics. credit: Natural genetics (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41588-022-01174-0

QIMR Berghofer scientists are challenging the research and funding community to develop better treatments for debilitating mental conditions, taking advantage of the many outstanding genetic discoveries made in the past decade to enable a new era of precision psychiatry.

Scientists have found hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of genes associated with the full range of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, anorexia nervosa, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder and ADHD. This has been made possible by new sets of DNA genetic data donated by millions of people and advances in supercomputing technology.

The head of QIMR Berghofer’s Translational Neurogenomics Laboratory, Professor Eske Derks, said that now is the time for this research to move to the next stage.

She led a new study published in Natural geneticsidentifying 10 key challenges that must be overcome before these genetic discoveries lead to improved patient care in the clinic.

“We’ve had an era of genetic discovery, and now we’re on the cusp of a new era of precision psychiatry that can offer more effective drugs for patients and can help clinicians better diagnose and treat these complex conditions.”

“The challenges we have identified are not easy to solve, but with a creative, collaborative and coordinated research approach and investment that supports scientists to do this work, we can make this new era a reality.” We owe it to people who have generously donated their DNA and to people living with mental illness,” said Professor Derks.

Two in five Australians have experienced a mental illness at some point in their lives. Anxiety and depression are the most common, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing a 25% increase in cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Mental illness can significantly affect patients’ quality of life and costs the Australian economy around $70 billion each year.

Dr Zachary Gehring, who led the study, said there was a huge opportunity to use genetic data to find more effective treatments.

“For decades, there has been little progress in developing new drugs for mental conditions. It can be a long process of trial and error for patients to find treatment.

“We can integrate genetic data with drug databases to identify potential new drug candidates that can be repurposed to treat mental health conditions.” Repurposing approved drugs means we can get them to patients faster and cheaper than developing an entirely new drug,” Dr. Goering said.

QIMR Berghofer Ph.D. candidate and co-author, Jackson Thorpe, said there is enormous potential for using genetic discoveries to elucidate the biological mechanisms of mental illness.

“Our studies show that there is a large genetic component that points to an underlying biological basis. Mental health conditions are diseases with a biological basis, just like other diseases such as diabetes,” said Mr Thorpe.

“By better understanding biological processes, we could discover the causes of mental health disorders, which could lead to the identification of high-risk groups of people, more specialized interventions and more accurate diagnostic tools.”

“I’m very hopeful that we can use this genetic information to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, but we really need funding to do this work,” Mr Thorpe said.


We found a genetic link between the results of routine blood tests and mental disorders


More info:
Eske M. Derks et al, Ten Challenges for Clinical Translation in Psychiatric Genetics, Natural genetics (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41588-022-01174-0

Provided by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Quote: A call to turn mental health genetic discoveries into better treatments for patients (2022, September 27), retrieved on September 27, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-09-mental- health-genetic-discoveries-treatments.html

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