« Is Fasting a New Diet Craze? | Main | Expectant Dads Experience Pregnancy Emotions Too »

Genetic Link between Autism, Schizophrenia, Other Disorders Found

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism may have a genetic link, according to a new study out Wednesday.

A new study, published in the Lancet, compared the genes of 33,000 people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, autism or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, along with almost 28,000 controls. The results showed that the disorders shared genetic traits.

Researchers looked for differences among single building blocks of DNA, and found that areas of the genome that identified with the five psychiatric disorders studied.

The discovery may make it possible to diagnose mental illnesses based on biology instead of relying on behavioral symptoms, which can be harder to define.

Several of the genes identified are related to calcium-channel function, which translate messages between nerve cells into biological responses and aid in emotional processing.

Alessandro Serretti, a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of Bologna, who wrote commentary to accompany the study, praised its quality, but said that more research is needed to further understand the impact of the genes and to learn how to positively apply it to what they know.

While a genetic connection between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder had already been discovered, this study was the first to search for, and find, relationships between a much more widespread range of afflictions.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio